Last week, I turned 20. When I realized that I'm finally at that age where people are starting to consider me a real adult, I had a minor freakout. As a kid, if someone told me they were 20, I was like, "Oh, they are the epitome of adult. They must have it all together."
No such thing is true, sadly, at least not in my case.
The reason why my 10-year-old self looked at 20-year-olds and thought they were so cool and had it all together is because, in comparison to my list of responsibilities at the time, theirs were so much longer and more legit. My 10-year-old list of responsibilities included watching more Hannah Montana than necessary, riding my bike around the neighborhood with my friends, trying (and failing) to learn long division, and becoming a certified champion at Wii Tennis (quick flex).
I look back at my 10-year-old self's list of responsibilities and I envy her. But the thing is, I have left the age of childhood simplicity and I'm thankful for the season I'm in now. College is so fun. Being 20 is so fun. It comes with its list of responsibilities, but it's a season all its own that I wouldn't trade. However, it is my deepest hope to I carry some of my 10-year-old self's quirks and qualities with me into my 20s: I want to radiate in childlike joy and trust in Christ, I want to be bold and funny and charismatic and think less about what people think of me, I want to sing in the shower without reservation, I want to be resilient in the face of setback.
In light of this thought, I decided to write a letter to my 30-year-old self to remind her to continue to carry this childhood joy into her real, for real adult life (because everyone knows that the 20s are the trial years of adulthood).
Dear 30-year-old Eva,
Hi! You're here! You made it! Welcome to your 30s. I don't know what your 20s were like, but I hope they were filled with great joy above all else. I hope you will be one of those adults who smiles with fondness at your 20s like my parents always do. I don't know what you accomplished in those 10 years, I don't know whether you're married or if you have kids or if you live in a new city or a new country. I don't know what you do for a living (although I'm sure it involves writing in some facet), I don't know who your friends are (although I have an idea of who you still keep in touch with), and I don't know who the President is. Oh my gosh, who is the President? That'll be fun to find out.
I know nothing about what your 20s looked like. You could be married to the love of your life, living in a sweet little cottage somewhere in Tennessee like you've always dreamt of. You could still be single, too, and it's okay if you are. Know that your relationship status does not define who you are.
But if you are married, I hope your husband is the man who you always prayed for. I hope he's a man of great integrity, a man who makes Christ the center of your marriage, a man who pursues you daily and chooses to see the joy in all things. I hope he is someone who is wise but not condemning, hilarious but not immature, loyal but not overcommitted, tenderhearted but not oversensitive. I know for a fact that he's flawed, just as you are, but if he is a man of God then I know Christ is working in and through him daily (just as he is with you). I hope you serve him and your family selflessly. I hope you cook him his favorite dinner frequently and go on long walks together and that you still have fun even though you're supposed to be real responsible adults now.
If you have children, I know you are so enamored with them. I hope you love them with as deep and vigilant of a heart as your mother loves you. I hope you know that your parenting abilities cannot--and will not--ever be dependent on your own doing. It is Christ in you who will be the only semblance of a "successful" parent. I hope that you play with your kids. Get down on your knees and pretend to be whatever it is they ask you to be. I hope you teach them how to sing, how to write, how to dance, how to be courageous, how to laugh, how to swim, but most importantly how to walk in stride with Christ daily. I hope you see them as little extensions of yourself who will one day leave your side and become their own selves. I hope that you love them hard but hold them loosely because you know these blessings are not inherently yours, not by any of your own doing, but by the grace of God whose heart for them is even bigger than your own. I hope you trust God with your children, trust Him to use them in whatever ways He so desires.
But here's the thing: Maybe you don't have any of those things. Maybe you are 30, unmarried and childless, and I know you are sad about it. Please hear me when I say that this does not make or break your status as a person. I know that most (if not all) of your friends have gotten married and have their own families by now. I know that your siblings may already be married. I know you're probably sitting at home with your dog (because if you're single, you're gonna get a dog for sure) wondering when it is God's gonna bring that person into your life because, gosh darn it, you are 30 and the clock is ticking, my friend!
Take a deep breath. Stop writing your own story before the next chapter has even begun (as 20-year-old Eva is far too good at doing). Pick up your Bible. Read Luke, then read Acts. Remember Paul? Remember how he spent his whole life doing one thing, thinking he was righteous and upstanding? God blinded this man and changed his name on the road to Damascus. He was overcome with the Spirit and saw Jesus. He then spent the following decades beaten, bruised, bloodied, and cursed for Christ's sake. He proclaimed Christ in all circumstances, on every occasion (Philippians 1:24). He considered his earthly life rubbish in comparison to what awaited him in eternity. I'm not saying that you are Paul (heavens, no) and I am not saying that you will never marry or have children. But take heart, because if Paul can, you can, friend.
Now, here's some things I want you to remember. These are just little things. I know you're 30, and that age sounds serious and important and old, but please don't forget that childlike, joyful piece of your spirit. Don't let it fade with age, don't dampen it because of social pressure. The people who love you because of it will stick around. It's something a lot of people envy, and for you to lose it in the crossfire of life would be so sad.
1. Sing in the car. Don't look to see if anyone is watching.
2. Buy the funky pants because you spent years wondering if you can pull it off, and the answer is this: If someone could convince an entire generation that snapback hats are a cool thing to wear, then you can wear some funky pants.
3. Paint your nails the really bold color. Your skin is too pale and your personality too big for you to constantly have plain colored nails.
4. Be everyone's biggest fan. Everyone needs a fan. Be that person for someone else.
5. Read your Bible at least once a day. Connect with God even in the midst of all the chaos of filing taxes and paying your mortgage and getting mammograms (these are 3 things that scare me about adulthood as of right now), because He is a peace of place in these scary things.
6. Eat more vegetables because your metabolism is definitely not what it used to be, but also don't be afraid to get the fries sometimes.
7. Befriend the baristas of your favorite local coffee shop because you have always said you wanted to walk up to the counter of a coffee shop and say, "the usual" and have it mean something.
8. Still go to concerts. You love concerts. I would hate to see you lose that.
9. If you don't already, start playing tennis. I always wanted to be good at tennis.
10. Pray in every circumstance. I don't care what it's about, just pray. Pray about the frivolous things. Pray stupid prayers. Pray prayers so big and impossible that they make God dance with delight in the face of making something new.
11. Play the guitar and the ukulele. I want your kids to grow up saying, "My mom plays the guitar and the ukulele for me sometimes."
12. Have a piano in your house because if you can't play the piano, I sure hope your kids can.
13. I know traveling is expensive, but make a budget and scoot some things around so you can go somewhere new once a year. I don't care if it's a new city in your state, or a new country across the globe. Make it a priority to raise your kids knowing how to navigate airports and weird traveling situations.
14. Eat seafood frequently. Unless you live in like Nebraska or something because I know we have that weird thing against eating seafood in landlocked areas (you spoiled Florida girl).
15. Go to NYC once every few years. I know it brings your heart joy.
16. Befriend people who scare you and people who underwhelm you. Both are people that are worth getting to know. You probably scare/underwhelm a lot of people, and yet many have given you the benefit of the doubt. Besides, neither one is less important or seen in the eyes of God. Know that they have as much value as you, and the opportunity to know another heart so intimately stitched together by Christ is an insane honor.
17. Be apart of other people's stories. I don't care what it takes: Offer a helping hand, bring people dinner when they're facing a difficult season, be vulnerable about what hurts you to others, travel far distances to really and truly be with those who matter to you. Be willing to die to yourself so that others can see Christ working in your heart.
18. Rest on Sundays. This doesn't mean literally sleep all day. Do things that bring your heart joy: write, read, talk to your dearest people, read your Bible, walk your dog to a new place, go for a hike, all of the above if needed. Rest in knowing that God has you covered no matter the circumstance and be expectant that He will continue to do this.
19. Do the things that scare you (unless they're life-threatening), because honestly, in the past, the things that have scared you have been pretty rewarding.
20. Read books. A lot of them. And write from what inspires you.
Eva, you have always been so beautifully yourself. There was that period in middle school where you were literally afraid to tell people what your favorite song was because you were afraid they'd judge you (Clocks by Coldplay is a jam, let it be known), but what middle schooler isn't more self conscious than necessary? That aside, you have always been so boldly real about who Christ says you are. You choose to look to Him for what He says about your heart, rather than what other people do. While this isn't always true, I pray that it is true in your 30s.
Also, know that 20-year-old Eva has prayed a lot of prayers for 30-year-old Eva at this point so you are pretty much covered. When you turn 31, though, all bets are off. ;)
Love you, no matter who you are,
The not-as-wise, not-as-cool, not-as-acknowledgeable, barely-20 version of you.
I was driving home from college a few weeks ago, and those long drives tend to get me thinking deep, philosophical things that my scatterbrained self can’t dedicate proper mind-space to when I have ten million things going on. Something about being in a car with nothing to pay attention to but the road ahead gives my brain the freedom and space to run amok.
Recently, I noticed that I’ve been looking for God to impress me. I’ve been looking to Him expectantly, crossing my arms and tapping my feet, like a bratty child. Here’s how I noticed it:
I was driving (as I said) and praying about a situation I’ve spent a great deal of time questioning. Not meaning to necessarily even think this, I prayed, “Lord, you know what would really impress me? If You made this happen.”
Whoa. Full-stop, almost immediately, a voice in my head declared: “God isn't here to impress you.” It was one of those thoughts unleashed, a thought that I alone could never think up. Clearly, the Holy Spirit was speaking a truth into me that I needed to hear.
This realization brought me to the core of guilt. All this time, I feel like I’ve been looking to God to impress me—at least with this one particular situation. I’ve been tapping my foot impatiently, thinking some grandiose gesture needed to happen in order for me to see the good work that God is surely doing in my life.
On this same train of thought, my mind involuntarily wandered over to this: God is love. If this is true, think about who God is: He’s about faithfulness. He’s about loyalty. He is not about impressing someone. He’s not about fleeting beauty or glittering promise or whimsical flirtation—He is a steady, long-lasting, deeply-enduring treasure, and that’s what makes Him impressive—because He is everything that we are not. Our fragile human condition or fleeting beauty and charm is not, and never will be, impressive—it is His endurance that is the true picture of love, and this alone is what makes love impressive.
I hadn’t really given it thought until that point, but that’s the honest truth: I base my ability to love someone or be loved by someone off my ability to impress them. Read it again and let that sink in. I think that my impressiveness = my promise. My hope. My future.
I think a lot of us, myself included, have forgotten how to love. Not just how to love, but what love even looks like. Until recently, to me, love = impressiveness. I based whether or not I liked someone based on how impressive they were to me. I based loving other people not on God’s terms, but on my own. God’s terms are to “love the least of these” (Matthew 25:45) because the Father loves the poorest, the most broken and helpless in spirit (“those who are the last shall be first and the first last”—Matthew 20:16).
My terms are to love those who can get something in return for me. I want to love those who can heighten my image, or bolster my resume, or who will make me more known or seen. Admitting this is hard, but realizing it has broken me. For the most part, I choose to love the people who can give me something in return. Whatever they have to give me is the impressive part. I want to impress them with who I am, so that they can impress me with what I want.
I feel convicted when considering that Christ Himself was most likely homeless. Christ Himself was a minority, an outcast, looked down upon in his own community because of their suspicion towards the nature of His pure conception. I don't think I would believe my friend if she told me that she was pregnant as a virgin. I would internally shame her for being a liar and wonder secretly who the father was. Neither would I have welcomed Jesus into my own home because I don’t think I’ve ever readily welcomed a radical, unshaven, unkempt homeless person who associates himself with the likes of prostitutes, tax collectors, and leprosy victims in my house.
How incredibly convicting that is to realize! Jesus says in Matthew 25:40-45: “‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” This alone shows me that Jesus would have been among the “least of these,” and my response, more than likely, would have been to doubt his validity as a rabbi because he wasn’t “upstanding” enough, then shut the door in His face. How shameful. What a sinner I am.
This revelation alone has made me realign my thinking in ways I cannot even begin to describe. By reading the Gospels and considering who Jesus was in His humanity, it has been revealed to me that I have never even once been close to loving Christ in the way I should be. I love the idea of Christ, a Christ who holds baby lambs in oil paintings in my Sunday school. I love the Christ who takes on the form of a genie for my sake, the Christ who wants to see me get a 4.0 GPA, fall in love, have a few upstanding children, and live a lavish life so that I can be more comfortable and happy. I love the Christ who asks very little of me. I love the Christ who doesn’t challenge me to rethink the entire alignment of my prideful heart. I love the Christ who brings blessings upon me and my family.
But here’s what I’m learning: I need to learn to love the Christ who can drive a legion of demons into a herd of pigs into the Sea of Galilee. I need to learn to love the Christ who already knows what, exactly, I need, and will walk alongside me as I navigate these waters. I need to learn to love the Christ who may not have marriage and children in my life plan. I need to learn to love the Christ who asks more of me than I could ever fathom, but will make me more rough-around-the-edges, tough yet tender, for it.
The earthly cycle of loving for recognition is heartless and cold and I want to learn how to really, truly love again—without borders, without reservation, without expecting anything in return. I want be overcome with love because it’s what Jesus would’ve done. Love those who won't be able to give me anything in return. Love without expectation. Love radically. Love the least of these.
Just over three weeks ago, I returned from Israel, and it's taken me this long to process what, exactly, I just did and sit down with my laptop, sharing my words with y'all. The culture shock coming back is more challenging then the culture shock getting there, for sure (especially since I literally came straight back into Step Sing, lol).
Given the opportunity, studying abroad in Israel for two weeks seemed like an unreal dream. A place so far away--impossibly exotic-- an experience that was on my bucket list but would never actually come to fruition. To give some context, I had never been out of the country prior to this trip, so the shock I experienced at being immersed in a culture that spoke an entirely different language and boasted an entirely different culture was so new to me.
I'm going to preface this post with this: Summing up the entire country of Israel in a single word feels cruel, as I could never do such a beautifully diverse, paradoxical, breathtaking country justice in a simple word. Pictures don't give much understanding for its sheer beauty, either--it's the kind of place where I keep telling people: "Just go. I can tell you how it was, and I can show you how it was, but nothing will ever compare to you going for yourself."
So, if you have the means, go to Israel. Make it happen. Prioritize it. If you're a believer that Christ is who He says He is, and want to know Him fully, go to Israel before you take that dreamboat trip to Italy or Greece or France or Spain or England. Those places are (I'm sure) beautiful and culturally diverse and crazy fun, but Israel is too, and moreover, it's the place where FREAKIN' JESUS WALKED. SO much history has occurred within those Israeli borders! Those Old Testament stories that seem like fairytales feel real when you see the backdrop of the passage. Those New Testament parables make so much more sense when you learn about who Jesus was in the context of his Israeli heritage, not just his whitewashed American lineage that the Protestant church has incorrectly established.
There is only so much I can actually put on this post, because if I actually wrote and published everything I did, thought, learned, and felt while in Israel I would never stop typing. Honestly, I know I will spend the rest of my life telling stories and reminiscing about Israel. So, this won't be the only time it comes up on here, it will definitely have a presence in my faith for many years to come. But if you have a question or want to hear about something in greater detail, please please reach out to me because I LOVE talking about Israel.
So, with all that being said, know that Israel is not boring, it is not to be overlooked. It is a vibrant place filled to the brim with real and true people, busy streets, flourishing coastal lines, dry, arid deserts, jungle-like waterfalls, Tennessee-looking hills, and biblical history to boot.
At the age of 13, my heart began to yearn to know Christ in His fullness, and since then it's been with a somewhat hesitant and apprehensive spirit that I prayed, asking God to change my heart and life for His glory.
I believe I felt this way because I didn't truly know Christ. Up until college, I knew Him in the way you know a friend who you see in passing a few times a week. I liked the idea of Jesus, and tried a few times to know Him fully, but telling Him my deepest heartaches and secrets felt strange, uncomfortable, and impersonal because I didn't take the time to get to know Him.
My freshman year was deeply humbling in the sense that knowing Jesus well (or at least the pretense of it) is somewhat of a means to a social end at Samford. I'm not promoting the use of Christ as a social ladder, I am, however, saying that this culture is what urged me to know Christ as a friend rather than as an acquaintance.
I didn't know it then, but this trip from Israel was a literal gift from God, aiding in my heart's deepest desire to know Christ more. I realized this while washing my clothes in the laundry room in one of our hotels, where I met an American pastor who went to Israel in his mid-20s, just after finishing seminary. He told me that he wished he'd gone before he went to seminary so that the Bible had some semblance of life, color, texture, flavor, and reality when he'd studied it so thoroughly. Since then, he's led 23 separate trips of 18-year-old college freshmen to Israel. Hearing this perspective humbled me greatly--I got to experience seeing the places where Jesus was physically present, where most of Biblical history occurred--and for the rest of my adult life, I'll be able to envision the setting of Israel when reading the Bible. To me, that is the biggest gift.
After 30 hours of travel, we landed in Tel Aviv. We started out our trip by driving down to Mizpe Ramon in Southern Israel, down in the Negev Desert. This is where the Israelites wandered for 40 years just outside of Egypt. Seeing how dry and arid the land is gives you a deep respect for the Israelite people. As my beloved professor, Dr. Leonard, put it: "These people were tough as nails--every day was a gamble as to whether or not they would survive." Imagining the plight of living in an area where natural bodies of water are scarce, the surrounding land dry and still, gave me a great deal of empathy for the women who would’ve had to walk miles and miles just to get to a source of water. I understood Moses’s distress and revered in his reliance in the Lord, because in order to be stuck in a desert this lifeless for 40 years you’d have to know and trust that the Lord has a greater vision than one you could ever imagine.
In Mizpe Ramon, we stayed overnight in adobe huts that overlooked the Jordanian border, the nighttime desert stillness incredibly captivating. At dawn, we arose with the sun to watch it rise over the elongated horizon, the 30 degree weather not deterring us from witnessing our first Israeli sunrise. For our meals, we were treated to authentic, homemade Israeli food--fluffy pita bread with freshly-crushed hummus, mouthwatering baked chicken coated in spices and oils, yellow rice and lentil soup, pickled cabbage, dates, and piping hot sweet tea. I'm getting hungry just thinking about this meal.
The next day, we traveled to arguably one of the best parts of the whole trip (I say that about every place we went though): Ein Avdat, a quiet, still stream hidden within the depths of a cavernous canyon--the place where many biblical scholars believe David could have written Psalm 23. I understand now why David felt the comfort of God in this place. I had never pictured Psalm 23 to take place in a location like this—I’d always imagined a quaint, green hillside with a few trees scattered about, a herd of sheep moving in unison down the hill as the shepherd walks before them, his staff guiding the way. Now, I see a shepherd walking alongside one sheep who struggles to keep up as the rest are in a herd a good few yards ahead. He is surrounded by towering rocks, steep slopes, and streams that seem daunting to cross. However, the shepherd is not afraid. The shepherd uses his rod and his staff, guiding the sheep down the steep slope and across the daunting stream, just as God does with us. This site reaffirmed what I was already learning to be true: we will never be able to understand the context and the full gravity of God’s word as long as we are on earth. We will never have a full visual for what the psalmist or the prophet were picturing when they wrote their words. We will never fully understand some things in the Bible, but for now, this psalm clarified is enough. The gravity of it is incredible. I am so moved by the truth of His love and protection over us, and I will never forget the beauty of this place or the hike we took to discover it.
After this, we started our slow journey northward, which began with another hike to a beautiful, flourishing cave called Ein Gedi. Known for being the location where David hides from King Saul in 1 Samuel 23 and 24, Ein Gedi appears as though it's straight off the set of Jumanji. There's a long waterfall that slides picturesquely off of a giant cliff, abundant palm trees and other greenery, and the hike to get there is no less breathtaking--there are parts where you have to climb through rock tunnels packed with palm fronds, streams running through the middle, stepping stones conveniently located throughout so your shoes don't get wet. When you're hiking through, you begin to wonder how David so conveniently stumbled upon such a beautiful spot.
That same day, we swam in the Dead Sea, where we floated in the water like seals and stumbled upon chunks of salt larger than our fists. Even though it was a chilly 60 degrees outside, the water was warm, and it felt like we were in some kind of geothermal spa. We were also able to go to Masada and the Qumran Caves on this day. A quick history lesson: Masada is one of King Herod's 15 (!) palaces based in Israel, one that tops all the others in excessiveness. However, it's unlikely that King Herod himself ever set foot on this territory, which is a huge shame considering its beauty. And the Qumran Caves is the location where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found by a wandering shepherd boy in the 1940s. It's so remote, I'm not surprised that it took around 1100 years for these records to be discovered.
We continued trekking northward, stopping to see Caesarea Philippi, where Jesus asked Peter "Who do you say I am?" in Luke 9. This location is *really* close to Syria, so the reality of being in proximity to a location with such political strife was unreal. We learned that, at the time when Jesus and His disciples would've traveled to this location, it was an army base for Titus's forces and on top of that, they had a temple to Caesar Augustus there. This is where we all began to realize that Jesus rarely, if ever, took his disciples to "comfortable" places. Jesus knew, in training his disciples, they would all eventually have to evangelize in places that were incredibly daunting. They would become martyrs for their faith, and in order to get to the point where they found joy in doing the earliest known Kingdom work, Jesus had to train them in endurance.
Next, we traveled to the Sea of Galilee. I have never felt the presence of Christ more evident than in this very place, where so much of his ministry occurred. I'd always imaged the locations of Jesus's ministry to be remote places, randomly scattered across Israel. But in reality, three of the places that are the most memorable from Jesus's ministry are within a few miles of one another: Capernaum and Mount of Beatitudes are literally down the street from one another, both overlooking the gorgeous Sea of Galilee, where Jesus walked on water and calmed the seas. *Footnote: the Sea of Galilee is not a sea. It's a huge lake--smaller than any of the Great Lakes.
My favorite place of these three, however, was the Mount of Beatitudes, where Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5. If I had to spend an entire day somewhere completely unbothered by anyone, I would likely choose to come here. The Sermon on the Mount was the first Biblical passage that I did a Bible study on when I first became a Christian in middle school, and it has meant so much to me ever since. Those pages in Matthew are highlighted over and over, with notes scribbled in the margins, and that day--January 9, 2019--I got to scribble a note in my Bible that dedicated the day I saw the Mt. of Beatitudes in person. The reaffirmation and renewal of the Old Covenant serves as a foundation for us as Christians, and the place of its birth is stunning. We went into the Chapel on the Mount where I sat down on a bench and read through the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew, and the importance of its words washed over me as if I were reading them for the first time again. As we were leaving, a rainbow appeared out of nowhere in the sky. I teared up and began thanking God for this miracle, as the rainbow signifies God’s eternal covenant with us sinful people—a covenant to love us forever, to protect us forever. That rainbow felt like God smiling upon us as we left a place so sacred, His eternal reminder that we are loved.
After an amazing few days spent by Galilee, we headed down towards Jerusalem, where we stayed the rest of our trip. All of what I learned in Jerusalem can be summed up in this: The cross is personal, and we all (myself included) need to do a better job of taking it seriously. On our last few days, we began traveling to places in Jerusalem that were all associated with Jesus's final hours: the Via Dolorosa, Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Upper Room, Garden of Gethsemane, Mount of Olives, and the Temple Mount, just to name a few. However, one place we went that I had never heard of before was St. Peter of Gallicantu Church, and it ended up being possibly the most impactful of all those locations. This church is where Jesus was held captive in an underground cell right before His crucifixion. He sat in this cell, reading Psalm 88 over and over as he wept to the Lord, begging that the cup might be taken from Him if possible. We got to sit in this very cell and read Psalm 88, and our professor cried (which was not an uncommon occurrence, but still, it brought emotion to the experience) as we read the psalm of David. As a means of closing, I'll share with you my own personal reflection that I wrote sitting outside of this church on a hill overlooking Jerusalem.
My savior, hunched over in prayer (Psalm 88), begging his father to prohibit the loss of his life.
My savior, chained and starved, drug to the home of Pontius Pilate to be tried for the highest criminal charge when all he ever did was love the poor and needy, forsake his own comfort for the comfort of others, gracefully push the limits of the disciples knowing that their evangelization would be humanity’s saving grace.
My savior, beaten and bruised and catered and flogged, nailed to a cross, left to hang as his lungs collapsed. Damned to hell to take on my sins of gluttony, envy, pride, shame, deceit, gossip, self-preservation. Who does that? Who willingly takes on 3 days in the darkest place so that I might live this selfish life of consumerism? What is that kind of grace?
Never again will I take the cross for granted. Never again will I imagine myself outside the bracket of “sin.” Never again will I look at the image of Christ on a cross and feel nothing inside. The cross is personal because the cross is for me. The cross is personal because it means that yes, I have free will, but to do anything but worship the giver of my life and its contents is fruitless. Free will is meaningless when held up to the light of the savior who defeated hell, defeated death, and defeated sin: my 3 greatest, deepest fears.
Need I fear when i worship someone who defeated the 3 things i loathe the most? Need I shed tears in worry over destruction and death when the Man who I so deeply cherish is one who leads me through still waters, who cherishes my soul, who makes me lie down in green pastures?
Jesus, never again will I take you for granted. Never again will I take your story for granted, now that I’ve seen it, lived it, walked through it, prayed through it. I have enough because I have you, the defeater of all things unholy.
Jesus, your sacrifice means everything to me. Thank you thank you thank you.
Like I said, I have so much more that I could say about this place. There will likely be many more blog posts coming in the future--but for now, this long one will have to suffice. Sorry for the length of this post, but I feel like you can't go across the world to the Holy Land and then write a short blog post about it, ya feel?!
Thanks for reading, friends. If you want to get a visual for my Israel trip, here is a video I made while there! And there's a photo gallery of some of the places I mentioned below! Also, if you want a more detailed day by day synopsis of what we did, check out my good friend Hannah Harris's blog where she did an amazing job of cataloging that.
I'll close with this: Go. To. Israel. Put it at the top of your bucket list, and go see the places where the Bible happened.
IT'S THAT TIME OF YEAR AGAIN! I spend a whole year listening to worship music and then when it's all said and done, I figure out which ones are the *best* so that I can post them on here for y'all!
Music is often one of the things that shapes my heart the most throughout the year. I can pretty much hear any song and tell you what I was doing/going through at that point in my life when it came out/when I first heard it, so I always love using that memory to trace back through the growth in my year.
Hope y'all enjoy, and for real, LISTEN TO THESE SONGS. Cannot recommend them enough.
I came back to Samford late in January after a refreshing six weeks at home just aching for some familiarity in my life. I had gotten so comfortable in my ways back at home during Jan term, and needed a song like this to remind me that wherever I go, I am FULLY KNOWN & LOVED by my Father. I cannot emphasize how many times the lyrics and melody of this song crossed my mind as I went through my daily life... and it helped so much. I remember crying in the car on my way back to school listening to this song... lol #dramatic
Okay so according to Spotify, this song was actually my second most-listened-to song for 2018, which makes sense, considering that from the moment I heard it I thought: "This shall be my life's anthem." Because what is life if not an endless alleluia to the Lord?! Also, this song is straight up BEAUTIFUL and deserves a Grammy just as much, if not more, than Reckless Love. Yeah, I said it. #underrated
While interning at my church in Birmingham, I discovered this song and I basically haven't stopped listening to it since. It's a banger of a worship song, lemme tell ya (wait till like 3:45 when the beat drops, I promise it's worth it). It's like 7 minutes long but honestly sometimes it feels too short for me because it's SO DANG GOOD.
I listened to this song a fair deal in 2018, according to Spotify-- and really, it's just a simple, sweet, acoustic hymn that lifts praises to the Lord. Sometimes ya just need it.
May was the month I went through finals, finished my freshman year at Samford, totaled my car, and moved to North Carolina for camp with complete strangers. The whole time, in the midst of that chaos, I just felt this sense of peace that God had brought me through those difficulties to know Him better. And while my flesh was telling me to be upset, I could do nothing but feel like a limp doll, comforted and cared for in the hands of a God who loved me so well. I have a super specific memory of listening to this song during one of my breaks on the first few days of camp, with practically no friends, no car, and nothing to look forward to but getting to glorify my God, and it filled me up. This song is what I think of when I think of the first time I realized I was going to make it after all.
This is definitely a song for children, but that's okay. In June, during Main Camp, Ellie Holcomb HERSELF came to camp with her two ADORABLE children and played this song for us before it came out. There were some adorable hand motions that went with it as well, and I remember hearing this song, surrounded by my dear, sweet girls, having this overwhelming confirmation that God's love is so wide, high, long, and deep that He knew me well enough to bring me to a place like Greystone where I was going to THRIVE.
This was the theme song of camp for the summer, and July was the month where I truly feel Christ in me embodied it the best. Except the camp version was just piano and the voices of sweet girls, but regardless, this version here is one of my favorites because I've been listening to it since before I was a Christian, before I knew what the words meant and what they would one day mean to me. Plus, Laura Hackett Park, a dear family friend, sings it with Cory Asbury--before Cory Asbury was famous ;)
August was another crazy month: Camp ended, I went home for 2 weeks, then moved back to Samford and started classes, my internship, and the hectic process of rush (round 2)! In the middle of all that, I went back to my favorite on-campus ministry that Samford does: Campus Outreach. That night, the worship leader played this song and I kid you not, the lyrics of it have been resounding in my head ever since. The words "Should nothing of our efforts stand/No legacy survive/Unless the Lord does build the house/In vain its builders strive" has been the motto for my 2019 thus far.
Jordy Searcy's album was a staple at camp this summer, so when I got back home I just kept listening to him. This song hit me in a new way outside the gates of camp, it holds a message that I truly believe is the core reason why Christianity is so ostracized in today's society. I wish everyone could hear this song.
For those of you who have never heard of Liz Vice, go do yourself a favor and listen to her music. To be candid with y'all, I grew up with my mom listening to her and I thought it was SO LAME when I was like 13 and all I wanted to listen to was Greyson Chance and Carly Rae Jepsen. Yikes. Anyway, now that I'm a grown adult with ~refined~ music taste, I'm beginning to see my mom was right about Liz Vice after all-- and October was the month I graciously rediscovered her music.
One random morning in November, I woke up with an anxious heart, as I do sometimes. Completely out of the blue, dear friend from camp, Paige, texted me all of Psalm 118 and told me that that those were the words the Lord had for me this morning. SO weird, I know, but so ordained. As a musically inclined person, I immediately went to find a song for Psalm 118 and found this one, and it's been a favorite ever since.
I've been listening to this album for over a year, but it's so funny how the Lord can renew the lyrics of a song that you've heard so many times to be fitted specifically for a season you're going through. As I spent the month of December preparing for a trip to Israel, this was the song that the Lord gave me for that time--which, since returning, I can say is a fitting song to describe the country. I may or may not have an Israel related surprise coming in a few days having to do with this song... cannot wait to share it with y'all!
That's it, friends. Thanks for sticking around. I hope these songs bless you deeply in 2019. Some of them are new, most of them are old, but that's okay because Jesus has done something so individually perfect through each one of these songs, in His time.
Can't wait for the words and stories to come in 2019!!! Love y'all, God bless!
I often struggle to string together words during the Advent season. I find myself typing in futility, then backspacing, then typing some more, then thinking, "No, that's stupid" then backspacing all over again. I find myself feeling inadequate and unqualified to share the words that scream from the core of my being: GOD IS WORTHY, AND YOU ARE NOT, AND THAT'S WHY THIS SEASON IS SO CRUCIAL.
My humanity can never, and will never, be worthy of celebration because His birth saved us all from death. In the birth of Jesus, God Himself came to earth so that he could instruct generations of Christians to be the light of the world through his sinless life.
He lived out what we, as Christians, strive to become. He embodied the death that we, as sinners, deserved. When He was nothing but so deeply perfect, the worth of His life was met with indifference and He died on the cross.
He died on a cross so that we could be forgiven. So that we might experience the promise of grace. So that there might be peace between God and humanity. He is so kind, and so good, and so perfect, and once, he was a baby.
This baby was born in the most humble of conditions. I look at his birth story and think about how Mary must've felt in the midst of it all. Humbled to be giving birth to the Savior of the world; yet frightened at the prospect of the task before her--both birthing and raising the child; somehow also filled to the brim with peace at the knowledge of God's provision, protection, and care for the world. She must've been the most kind, bright, and wise young woman. I wish I could befriend Mary and know her spirit.
I think about how good of a man Joseph was. He took on the role of parenting a child who was not his, forgoing his own reputation in order to heed the call of his Father, understanding that the task at hand was more than just a duty, but a calling, a fulfillment to an age-old prophecy.
I've learned a lot this season about how harmoniously metaphorical the entire story of Jesus's life was. How, from the prophecies from the Old Testament--dating back to the Garden of Eden, all the way to Malachi--Jesus's presence, timing, and life made sense.
In just over a week, I'll be flying to the other side of the world to experience the Holy Land for myself. I'll get to see with my own two eyes the places that were the backdrop of Jesus's very existence. All of the places mentioned in the Bible that are now nothing more than locations on a map to me will come to life right before my eyes. I AM ECSTATIC. I never thought I'd get to do something so cool, but I see how clearly the Lord has provided a path for this trip.
During this Advent season, I've prayed these words: "Lord, make this story seem real to me. Bring it to life before my eyes. Make it personal." As a college student, it can be challenging to really soak in the glory of the Christmas story during the early December finals craze when you're trying to memorize 172 flashcards for an exam. But in the midst of those weeks, I prayed this prayer, honestly kind of forgetting that I would be going to Israel at the end of the month.
The Lord is so good at fulfilling prophecies. I've seen it play out in my own life, and what I love is that these stories are always being sewn. They never stop. In one way or another, the thread of one story will always affect you on some level and will continue to be woven in and out and through your life forevermore. Jesus's birth was prophesied throughout the entire Old Testament, and today, His life and death has left us all changed, left for the better, because of his deep love and humble service.
I'm trusting that He is currently making room in my heart for the glorious promise that Jesus's whole story will seem very real and personal to me in a matter of days.
If you can, be praying for this trip and for the safety of our entire group while studying abroad. I'm sure it's going to be a time abounding with blessing, joy, clarity, and fulfillment of many prophecies.
Merry Christmas, y'all. Hope it's been a good one.