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Mountain High or Valley Low | He > I

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About a week and a half ago, God’s spirit moved me in a way that nothing and nobody else could ever do. Sounds just like God, right? And yet I was so caught off guard by his tender voice roaring through my soul and surfacing His deep, deep love for me.

I was at a conference in Toronto, and during the final portion we dedicated some time to just listen to God’s voice. Typically when a time like this is included in a conference/event, I simply say “God, if you have anything you want to tell me I’d love to hear. Otherwise, I’m content to sit back and just enjoy Your presence.” But for some reason, I really wanted to hear from God that day. I was desperate for a personal message from Jesus.

I want to preface this by saying I am an incredibly emotionally sensitive person. I’m easily moved. Moved by the words of others, moved by books, moved by music. I well up almost every day for some reason or another, sometimes even for a split second.

But when God Himself moves me? Man…. the effects don’t wear off quick.

I silently prayed for the Lord to speak to me. As I told God I wanted to hear His voice, a picture started to form in my mind. A real picture – one that my friend Tat had taken at Machu Picchu. We were standing on the mountaintop. She photographed her tattoo’d wrist – proclaiming He > I (He is greater than I, words she truly lived by) – with a gorgeous view of Machu Picchu in the background. My first thought was “Cool, I love this photo. But I think about Tat every single day so I may have conjured this up myself.” Just as I began to doubt, the photo changed to another actual photo – this one I took. It was the view from a hotel we stayed at in Ollantaytambo – a village within “la Valle Sagrado” which means “the Sacred Valley”. Tat’s arm isn’t in this photo, but in this moment when I’m seeing it, I still see her tattoo.

“Okay”, I said to Jesus “This is really beautiful. But what does it mean?” As I tried to wrack my brain I somehow saw these two photos simultaneously. Then God spoke to my heart in a way only He would know how. I felt the words so deep in my soul, somehow both loud and quiet.

On the mountaintop, He > I
In the valley, He > I

My heart pounded and I was overwhelmed in the best way. With 2 short phrases from Jesus, I was completely undone.

It had been a while since I felt that God had spoken words that were specifically designed for me. I was a bit floored. God has a way of delving into the recesses of our hearts, taking hold of the things that cause us sorrow, and bluntly confronting us with them. He doesn’t shy away from the broken parts of our hearts like many do. The parts we bury so we can function as human beings. Instead – He digs them up, nurtures them, consoles our spirits, whispers His promises and reminds us that His plan is intricate and good.

On the mountaintop  – He is greater than I. When I feel like I’m on top of the world. When I’m gazing at the beauty of Machu Picchu. When I’m loving my life. When all seems right. When I feel joyful and inspired. When I’m accomplishing great things. When I feel invincible and unstoppable – He is greater than I

In the valley – the low, low valley. When things are terrible. When I walk through the  valley of the shadow of death. When the people I love die. When sadness surrounds me. When chaos entraps me. When I fall hard and I don’t know how to get back up. When I fail – He is greater than I. 

Even though Tat is gone from my sight – God is using the very essence of who she is to touch my soul. This might sound obvious, but God is so creative. God used Instagram photos to speak to me. God used two actual places I stood beside Tat 3 years ago. Machu Picchu and la Valle Sagrado. A mountain and a valley.

Spending time with Tat in Peru was a mountaintop. Losing her was a low, low, low valley.

Yet Tat’s wrist sums it all up. He is greater than us through the mountains and valleys of our lives. God is there on the mountaintop celebrating with us and whispering His goodness and love. In the valley, God sees us. When we’re stuck in the valley and can’t find our way out – God is greater than us and He won’t forsake us. He has a plan. He consoles us and ensures us that we aren’t meant to know his entire plan.

This conversation with Jesus meant the world to me. It was specific and powerful and so personal. You might even say it was life changing.

I cannot wait to tell Tat about how God used her tattoo to rock my world someday. I want to thank her for deciding to get that tattoo, and for deciding to take that photo. Most importantly, I want to thank her for living the words on her skin and wearing her heart on her sleeve.

He > I.

Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love will not be shaken – Isaiah 54:10

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The mountain (and the sweetest girls)
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The valley (La Valle Sagrado)

 

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If Not, He is Still Good | Embracing 2019

I woke up on January 1st desperately wanting to hide from 2019. I’m supposed to be celebrating, but I’m finding it hard to celebrate a year that my grandma and dear friend Tat won’t ever see. The first year that they don’t exist on the earth. How horrible is that?

The night before – New Years Eve – I was feeling indifferent about the fact that a new year was about to begin. I ate copious of food (like, way too much pizza and guac) and watched movies with my boyfriend. We pulled up a New Years Eve countdown. As the final seconds of 2018 approached, I could suddenly feel my heart sinking. I was about to say goodbye to the last year that Tat and my Grandma walked the earth. How can that even be real?!

“3, 2, 1 –HAPPY NEW YEAR!” 

I managed to muster up the words and even smile as I said them, but I didn’t believe them. I did not anticipate the intense sadness that came on so quickly. I received “Happy New Year!” texts. I saw endless posts on social media about how people are so excited for 2019. I couldn’t relate. In this moment, 2019 felt like a betrayal, a slap in the face. I know that makes no sense, but I felt like 2019 already did me wrong just by existing. For being the year that changed Tat’s last Instagram post from “August 13th” to “August 13th, 2018” — last year. For being the first year I won’t receive a birthday card from my Grandma in the mail. I mourned 2018.

After a while my boyfriend asked if I was okay. I said “yes…. just a little sad”. And then I cried and cried. I was more than a little sad. He didn’t need to ask why.

I’ve been thinking about 2019 for a while now, wondering what it holds. But these curiosities are not driven by excitement, but fear. What disappointments will I face? What spirit crushing events will occur? Who might I lose in 2019?

I posted this photo last New Years Eve with this caption:

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2017 was maybe the hardest year of my life. But God is so good that He carries me through every trial and fills me with joy in suffering and sadness. I know I can trust he will do the same in 2018 through whatever victories and disappointments it brings. Happy New Year 💕💕🎉
~ Psalm 94:19
When anxiety was great within me,
Your consolation brought me joy

My sister passed away in February of 2017. It was the worst thing I had ever experienced. In September of that year I started experiencing anxiety in a way I didn’t know possible. Crippling anxiety. Anxiety that tricked me into believing I was going to die every day for at least 2 months. Anxiety that caused me to constantly take stock of how my body is feeling, all day long. Fear of dying. And while I was able to leave most of that anxiety in 2017,  2018 was far from a “happy new year”.

A sweet boy I once knew killed himself this year. One my best friends Tat was tragically killed in a car accident in August – she was only 20. My grandma passed away exactly one month ago today.  So a “happy” new year? Not quite.

The thing is, when I posted that I knew God would be with me through all the “victories and disappointments” that 2018 has to offer, I really thought 2018 would mostly bring victories. I figured that after the year I had just had, there’s no way that more disappointment and tragedy could be waiting for me in 2018. No way. I had definitely had my fair share of loss and 2018 would be kind to me.

But I was wrong. There was a lot of disappointment and tragedy and unspeakable loss in 2018. I’ve felt a lot of sad things this holiday season. Don’t get me wrong – I’ve felt a lot of good things too. But celebrating a new year just didn’t sound appealing to me in the slightest.

Despite all of this, I have a “feeling” that it’s going to be a good, happy year (I know, I know – confusing after everything I just said). But what do I know? How could I possibly expect that? Maybe there’s just as much pain in 2019 as there is in 2018, and 2017. I cannot possibly predict what this year will hold.

So here’s hoping for a great year with less loss and more joy, less darkness and more light. Less fear and more love. There are lots of things in 2019 that I am excited about. This could be a really amazing year.

And if not, He is still good.

He is still good. God is still good. My friend Tat loved these words that come from Daniel 3:18.

As I’m reflecting on this past year and dreaming for the next, I feel these words deep in my soul. If this year isn’t all that I hope it will be, He is still good. I am not in control – I don’t get to choose whether there is suffering or pain or loss. But I do get to choose to love Jesus with all my being – and if this year is the worst ever, He will still be so good and I will still rejoice in Him.

The idea that I’m not in control isn’t new to me. Neither is the truth that God is in control. But if I accept that God is in control, why does it hurt so bad when something goes differently than I had anticipated or wanted? I don’t have a good answer for that question. But I know that He is good.

Most of the posts I’ve read about 2019 have been positive – which is good! I’m glad people are excited about 2019. That is great! But it makes posting this a little bit hard. I’ve thought hard about it for 4 days. I don’t want to make anyone sad or lessen their happy, excited vibes. For the past 5 months I’ve felt a little bit like the girl who can’t stop talking about how sad she is on the internet. I don’t want you to feel bad for me, but if you relate I want you to know that your pain is valid and you are allowed to feel however you feel – even if it’s New Years.

The other day my good friend Aliza told me I should blog more, and I told her I was afraid people won’t want to read my posts.  She replied with:

“I remember Tat saying the same thing. It’s not true though. And besides – writing is never really so other people read it. It’s almost always for you to process something yourself.”

So this is me processing. This is me making amends with 2019 because somehow it hurt me the second it begun. This is me surrendering control and surrendering my heart to Jesus once more because I know He always picks up the pieces and I can trust him. This is me erasing my fear of the unknown in 2019.

This is me making a commitment to embrace 2019, because it has the potential to be a good, happy new year.

And if not, He is still good.

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An amazing print hand lettered by Aliza Latta
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Tat & I in Cusco, Peru.
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My Grandma and I attempting the “duck face”
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Sending balloon messages up to Tat in Peru
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Took a trip to Peru in October. It was hard without Tat, but I love her family so dearly and am so thankful for the time we spent together.