One of my favorite things to think about in this world is how people's lives can look so different in the space of one same day, and I love how the stories of these lives can run together and intermingle so effortlessly.
Two people can be in two totally different stages of life, on two entirely different journeys. When you think about it hard enough, it's true: the worlds that people live in, the lives they lead, colliding and intertwining, in the space of just a few miles never ceases to amaze me. And yet, God can work through each of these people in an equally impactful way.
I'm telling you, I will never get tired of thinking about how glorious life is beneath these blue skies. How God created a broad, wide-open space for us to live and breathe and dwell and play. I think about the space of a Saturday and how, today, I'm lying in bed listening to LANY while typing out this blog post, but just a few miles down the road, someone is getting married. Someone else is at the hospital fighting for their life on this very same day. Someone else is worshipping at a church service. Someone else is getting ready for a night of clubbing. Someone else is on their first date with their future spouse, entirely unaware that their life is about to drastically change. Someone else is laboring a child into this earth, a child who could change the world, for all we know. Someone else is filming a movie over in LA, a movie that could win all of the Oscars. Someone else is working in a factory today, wishing they could have the day off to spend with their family, or with themselves.
When I was little, my mom used to sing me a song every night before I fell asleep. One song I remember with particular fondness was Kumbaya, a song that I'm sure you've all heard. The song is a simple and innocent plea, and when I sing it, I feel like a solitary grain of sand among many, praying and advocating for the lives of the other grains of sand.
The word "kumbaya" itself means "come by here."
Kumbaya, my Lord, kumbaya
Kumbaya, my Lord, kumbaya
Kumbaya, my Lord, kumbaya
Oh Lord, kumbaya.
And in the following verses, you basically launch into a prayer-filled request for the Lord to "come by" the places where there's varying shades of hurt, joy, faith, and sorrow.
Someone's singing, Lord, kumbaya
Someone's laughing, Lord, kumbaya
Someone's crying, Lord, kumbaya
Someone's sleeping, Lord, kumbaya
I remember vividly being a child, drifting off to sleep as my mom sang, and in my limited knowledge trying to imagine the broad expanse of people on this earth who could be singing, laughing, crying, and sleeping at that very given moment. Of course, I was young, and thought that 8 o' clock was everyone's bedtime, so I imagined most of them to fall into the "sleeping" category. But that's besides the point.
One of my very favorite places to visit is New York City, for many reasons. But primarily because when I'm in New York, I feel like I'm getting a glimpse at all that this world has to offer. All of the cultures, all of the lives, all of the varying degrees of faith and lack thereof, all of the levels of education, all the walks of life. There's so much potential walking through the streets of New York, riding in the subways, pointing out at the attractions from the buses, riding up through the elevators of the skyscrapers. There's so much potential everywhere, but in New York, I feel like it can be seen in action: live, rich, full, and beating, pulsing, like a throbbing heartbeat.
If the world is a symphony, sometimes it feels like it's nothing but utter chaos--all the instruments clanging together, competing for airtime and attention. But if we see the world through the lens of God's impossibly rich and deep love, it is a sight to be seen; a sound to be heard. The steady rhythm of the violin grounds each instrument with its certainty, carrying the weight of the song, and the flutes and piccolos pipe in with their sweet harmony. The clarinet and oboe offer an earnest greeting, the French horn and tuba and trumpet announce their opinions, the percussion interjects, the xylophone softly speaks up. If the world is a symphony, we all complement one another if we choose to see it that way.
And so, today, because I believe in the promise of the sweet symphony, I choose to ask God to kumbaya in all places. Whether you be singing, sleeping, praying, smiling, laughing, crying, studying, dancing, driving, watching TV, going to the store, doing your hair, eating pasta, reading a book, making your bed, stepping into a new season-- I pray He will kumbaya for you and for everyone else who needs it. I challenge you to do the same.
With eager hands, I ripped open the envelope. The envelope I’d been fantasizing about for months on end. It had a bit of weight to it, heavy and cream-colored, with a light red trim. The excitement buzzed in my stomach. This is it, I told myself. You’re about to be in your top choice sorority.
As I tore open the envelope, my eyes fell onto the paper inside, decorated with a different sorority’s seal than the one I’d wanted. Written in a fanciful font were the words: We invite Eva Parker to be a sister of our sorority.
There had to be a mistake. This envelope couldn’t have been meant for me—these were not the letters I’d spent all of rush week (and then some) dreaming about. These were not the letters of the girls who told me, “We’ll see you at bid day tomorrow!” as I exited the doors of their house the night before.
I dropped the envelope on the gym floor and walked away from it, hot tears streaming down my face. All around me, girls were screaming with delight, tackling one another with big, fat bear hugs, throwing up their new signs, throwing on the jerseys that they’d been given. And all I could blearily think was, Please tell me this is a nightmare. I want to wake up. Please let this be some awful, horrible, twisted dream and dear God, please let this not be real.
One of my dear friends who was also in my rush group saw my disappointment and hugged me. “It’s going to be okay,” she said. “It’s all going to work out. God has a plan for you.”
While I knew this to be true in my heart of hearts, those were the last words I wanted to hear at that moment. I wanted to scream. I wanted to go somewhere and drive really fast and play my music really loud and yell at whoever’s decision it was to cut me the night before bid day. I wanted to go back, rewind to the night before, and do something differently. Anything. Whatever it was that made them decide I was not worth their time.
Bid day of 2017 marked the beginning of a very difficult journey that I hadn’t realized I needed to embark on: One where my very identity was uprooted and planted into much more fertile, fruitful soil. You’d think this would be an amazing experience, and mostly, it was, but the undercurrents of it were filled with pain and angst and nights alone that made me question what the heck God wanted from me. I dropped the bid I got from the house I didn’t feel connected to, and to this day, I don’t regret that decision. I know what God wanted from me in that season was independence in more than one way: independence from Greek life, and independence to do the hard thing and be entirely unaffiliated (an anomaly at my school, located in the heart of the Deep South).
Fast forward past the initial grief, confusion, and sadness, I came to realize that I had two choices: I could wallow in the deep-cutting sting of rejection— or I could move past it, ask for prayer and guidance, trust God’s vision for my life, and try to figure out what it was going to take for me to feel okay again.
The months that followed were truly so humbling yet life-giving in the best way. Some people ignored and glazed over my pain; others were keen to it and gave me so much grace, love, and affirmation that it truly blew me away.
It was humbling in the sense that I realized where my identity had lain just before bid day: in my future sorority. My top-choice house became my obsession. I thought about what it would feel like to walk around campus bearing the letters I would be so proud to represent. I thought about how good and accomplished I would feel to have been invited into such a top-tier house, knowing in my heart that I was good enough. I thought about what the community would be like and how strong and deep my friendships were going to be. In all honesty, I was idolizing my relationships with my nonexistent sorority sisters before my relationship with the One who created me.
It was life-giving in the sense that, following the intense humbling of realizing my intentions, I was able to give and receive love in a way that felt weightless. I learned that you can’t accept love in doses, you can’t only accept love from the people you want to be seen with. You accept and give love in its purest form to those you don’t even have a reason to love. You love because you were created to do so. You love because it’s the hard thing to do. And that is what was shown to me by a select group of people who embodied God’s goodness in human form when I felt like I wasn’t good enough to be seen or known or loved by them in that season.
I came to terms with my life as an independent, more or less. The wound still stung when I helped my roommate get ready for her formal, or when I took pictures of my hall mates leaving for a date party, or when Vail got deathly silent on Sunday nights when more than half of the building left for chapter, or when I watched my friends walk to their sorority house—my top choice house—for initiation, and the only plans I had that night were to sit in my dorm and wait for them to get back.
For the longest time, subconsciously, I saw my year of being an independent as a punishment. As a curse. As a thing I had to trudge through because I was being penalized for caring too much about which house I ended up in. I loathed the dreaded question, “Which sorority are you in?” because the impending answer was one that I didn’t want. It wasn’t my wish to have my answer be, “None.” But it was. And I felt weird, shameful, and exposed for that. It hurt so bad. It was like a knife being twisted in my gut every time I told someone that, yes, I was one of the unlucky few who had to experience the pain of rejection and shame on bid day. They prepare you for that possibility in the Recruitment 101 meeting, but you never ever think it’s actually going to be you who has to face that truth. You always think, “Someone else—not me.”
Well, it was me. And I had to face it. I had to live through it. I had to cry it out alone and seek shelter internally because when it came down to it, only a select few really understood the depth of my pain. I couldn’t always verbally process it with my friends, for fear that they’d think I was fixating on it too much. It felt like such a silly, trivial thing to be so torn up about, but there I was, ripped to shreds over the rejection.
It took me almost until April to see independence as the gift that it was. God gave me the gift of not having to pay sorority dues for a whole year! He gave me the gift to become so aligned with Him that I would never confuse my identity again! He gave me the gift of getting to be friends with people in every sorority, not just the one I wanted to be in! He gave me the gift of getting to share my story with people! I’d mistaken this gift as one big, stinking mess—a twisted mass of hurt and rejection and shame and unworthiness. But God was calling me to get through the shame and know Him deeper and rely on Him solely and lead other women who have felt the sting of rejection themselves to His arms.
That’s why I’m sharing my story with y’all today. If I’ve declared my entire life one that will be used for God’s glory, I would be stupid to let this story sit in my draft pile somewhere (yes, that draft pile is real and it exists and there’s so many unsaid words in that darned thing). I can’t be silent about this one thing because it might be somewhat embarrassing. I’ll say it till the cows come home: Resilience is built in vulnerability. Trust is built in vulnerability. And the only way I can fully share the Gospel is if I am vulnerable with my deepest spiritual heartaches.
This is the truth I choose to believe in, from Shauna Niequist's book Bittersweet:
"Heartbreak brings us to lots of places--to despair, to bitterness, to emptiness, to numbness, to isolation. But because God is just that good, if we allow the people who love us to walk with us right through the brokenness, it can also lead to a deep sense of God's presence. When things fall apart, the broken places allow all sorts of things to enter, and one of them is the presence of God."
Despite the heartbreak of last year’s recruitment, I prayerfully decided to go through recruitment again this fall for more reasons than one. It’s a decision that I’m at peace with. It’s a decision that was not made alone. It’s a decision that scared me and put me back in that gym, teary-eyed and hurt. It’s a decision that made me feel the aftereffect of everything that happened to me, in the best and worst ways possible.
Going through rush again, I trusted in this and this alone: Romans 5:1-5 says we only get peace through our Lord Jesus Christ: “through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”
I prayed that God’s will would be done, but, if possible, one that simultaneously included a much less painful outcome than the previous year. I prayed for hope and perseverance and character all wrapped up—that God would give me so much of it that I would be bursting at the seams.
That prayer has been answered in the form of Chi Omega: the house filled with girls that consistently loved me well during my season of heartache. The house where I felt most at home, even when I couldn't officially call it mine. The house I most secretly wanted to be apart of, but could never allow myself to dream such a thing could happen.
The joy you see on my face in the attached photo is genuine and real and raw and unscripted. If you had told me a year ago that I would get to experience bid day with my best friends in Chi O as a sophomore, I wouldn't have believed you. Now I stand here thankful and overjoyed to get to be sisters with the people who are closest to my heart.
The thing is, though, that prayer would've been answered even if I hadn't received a bid. That story would've been redeemed even if I had decided not to rush again.
God's in the business of redemption, and His reach is not limited to just fixing sadness. He could've restored my story in a myriad of ways, but man, am I thankful that He chose to do it through the loving sisterhood of Chi Omega.
To close this ridiculously long blog post, I want to leave you with this: don't choose to walk through your heartache alone. It makes the pain so much harder. As humbling as it is to share this story, I know that this isn't a story about my lack of competence or desirability. I know this is a story about God's enoughness and His constant desire for our pure, unadulterated hearts.
**If you know ANYONE who has felt the heartache of recruitment in one form or another, please have them reach out to me. Give them my number or Insta DM me or whatever it takes for them to feel known and seen and loved and heard and never alone when it seems like twenty thousand girls are strutting around in their sorority letters. I've been in those dark corners of strange sadness and I am more than happy to sit with them, and just maybe pour some light into that corner.
This year, I've tried to be brutally honest with myself about everything. Whether it's how I perceive myself, or other people, or situations that are far beyond my control, I try to not be as idealistic as I have been in the past. I attempt to have a mindset of contentment based on what God has done and what He will continue to do and what He says about me, rather than what I wear to class or my Saturday night plans or what sorority letters I wear say about me.
Not to inundate you with yet another camp reference, but, I spent my entire summer with young girls who didn't give two flips about what I wore, or who I was friends with, or where I went to college. All they cared about was how willing I was to show love to them on a daily basis, how well I served them, and where the source of my love was from. It brought me back to the core of who God says I am. And it also brought me to the core of what I'd been saying about myself for months--possibly years--on end.
Recently, one of the truths that has been ringing through my head is that what we love the most is what we choose to be most passionate about. It's true. In a season of my life where I found myself finding my identity in my ability to upkeep a solid Instagram feed, I loved that the most. I remember going out to do things with my friends a lot, sometimes all under the guise of my desire to get a good Instagram photo so that I could post it, and along with it, display my ability to maintain an abounding social life. There was a season of my life where I was paralyzed by my deep desire to be in a sorority, and that deeply misguided fascination resulted in the uprooting of what I most wanted. In a healthier, more God-breathed era of my walk, I sat daily with the Lord, focusing on His scripture and sometimes legitimately feeling my heart throb with joy at the incredible works of God. How had I not noticed before? Why did it take me so long to discover what goodness flows from His love?
What I'm trying to say is, what you say about you matters because it's where you focus all of your time and energy. If I told myself that all I was is a good writer, then my self esteem would fall to ashes at the first sign of critique. If I laid a foundation for myself based on my GPA, then I would be highly disappointed to find that whatever good grades I have can be taken in an instant by one misstep on my much-dreaded Hebrew midterm (yes, I really do take Hebrew). If I only found my worth in what other people say or think about me, then I will most definitely fall short of perfection because I mess up a lot and find myself saying "I'm sorry" to my friends and family a lot more than I'd care to.
So what I say about me is that I'm flawed, I'm imperfect, but I'm sure as heck loved by Someone who loves me more than the sum of my parts. He has never loved me on a face value. He doesn't love me because I got up and went for a run on Tuesday morning, He doesn't love me because I have an amazing job that pays me really well, He doesn't love me because I'm friends with people who post pictures of me on Instagram, He loves me because I simply exist. I'm here to do His good kingdom work. If I spent my time doing anything else but that, it would be in futility.
So, today, sit down and make a list of the earthly things you think define you. Then, counter them with a heavenly thing that God says about you. I'll start.
1. I am loved and important because I am friendly, likable, and bubbly.