To be honest, is to be real, is to be transparent, is to be vulnerable.
This Summer something happened to me that I never could have seen coming or predicted. It broke my heart, it sent me to my knees in prayer, and it taught me the true meaning of complete vulnerability in Christ.
My natural reaction to anything that hurts me is to bury it deep in my heart and mind, to places I don’t go very often, and move on. I like moving on without having to face hardships- I like forgiving and “forgetting”. It puts a temporary bandaid over the wounds that you are just not yet ready to deal with, and it makes the day-to-day tasks of life with pain a bit more bearable. But for reasons that I would later discover, the Lord would not allow me to move on. He would not allow me to let go, to “forgive and forget”, as so many of my friends (out of their deep, deep love for me) were encouraging me to do. He just…wouldn’t.
I don’t see myself as a person who responds well to change. I’m a lot like my dad in the respect that, when I’m committed to something, I’m all in, and it is difficult for me to handle any variation from that. One night while I was in the deep trenches of battling with the “unexpected”, the Lord sweetly said, “Stop. Get up, get on your knees, and intercede.” The thing about praying for a situation is that you have to confront it. You have to rip the bandaid off and let the Lord tenderly clean and care for your wound. It hurts. But it’s a good hurt. It’s a healing hurt.
“Do you trust Me? I am so much bigger than the temporary. I am so much better than the pain. I am so much mightier than the demons that are fighting for your affections. I am a just God. I am true to My word. I am faithful. I will always be faithful. If you have any ounce of trust in the goodness of My Word, you will get up, you will get on your knees, you will intercede, and I will show you just how faithful I am.” So I got up, I got on my knees, and I prayed.
I did not wake up the next morning to everything suddenly being back to normal. It took months. It took months of me getting on my knees and allowing a good Father to take over my affections. It took me being vulnerable and susceptible to the hurt and brokenness for Him to become the true Steward of my heart. It took me fighting Him over whether I was even worthy and deserving of a redeemed situation. It took months to realize that the acts of intercession and vulnerability with the Father produce true, transparent worship.
You see, I know that He promised me that He would show Himself come full circle in my circumstances, but it took me taking my mind off of these temporary things for Him to fully redeem the situation. He made me realize that even if things didn’t turn out the way I so hoped they would, He was still good. He was still enough. He was all that I needed for my soul to be completely satisfied. Once I finally grasped ahold of these truths, His redemption did indeed come full circle. The beautiful thing about His redemption is that it is always renewed. It is no longer old nor stained, but perfectly purified and blameless.
That is the God we serve. A God who, despite our unworthiness, proves Himself over and over again just how worthy He is. That through the uncertainty of our finite lives, He is certain. That, even through our doubt, He proves Himself to be the giver of good and perfect gifts.
His redemption is a beautiful thing. He demands vulnerability, and sometimes He even requires bruised knees and tear-stained cheeks, but He is always worth every second of it. To be vulnerable, is to be susceptible, is to be carried, is to fight for, is to be renewed. Beautifully renewed.
“Lord, You alone are my portion and my cup; You make my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance. I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With Him at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my mouth rejoices; my body will also rest secure, because You will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will You let your faithful one see decay. You have made known to me the path of life; You fill me with joy in Your presence, with eternal pleasures at Your right hand.” Psalm 16:5-11
Be vulnerable with the Father today!
“Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14
Sometimes it’s hard not to live in the past. I feel like for my almost-20 year old self, I have lived a very diverse life- been lots of different people and experienced lots of different things. Some good, some bad, some just normal life happenings. This is not (at all) a bragging statement. It is just a matter of fact.
I’ve found myself lately dwelling on certain moments in my past that I’ve not quite understood. Moments that I, sometimes, wish had not happened. People I wish I hadn’t met, encounters I wish had not been. Sometimes I dwell on these things for so long that I am so entrenched in a life 1 or 2 or 5 or 10 years ago that, when I look up, it takes me a while to remember that it’s today. Sunday. New dawn that has been completely redeemed. Sometimes I spend so long analyzing and criticizing that the Lord has to sweetly say, “Stop. Look up. Put one foot in front of the other and walk forward.”.
And that’s when it hits me, we were wired for struggle. We are all beautifully broken people that, without the all encompassing love of a savior, would just be broken. He has to remind me that He allows everything. There is not one second of our lives that goes unnoticed by Him, and it is in the muck and mire of our struggles that He is able to reach down and pull us out. He is able to take the shattered pieces of our lives and masterfully craft them back together. A new heart that longs for His heart, His ways, His desires. It is in the brokenness that we find Grace, not just for our own imperfections, but for the imperfections of those around us. Those who, like ourselves, have yet to acquire the perfect theology or the perfect faith. It’s in the brokenness that He is able to take every ounce of toxicity in our being and replace it with every ounce of Himself. Leaving no trace of the past but being the perfect propitiation for it all. All of the hurt, all of the wounds, all of the flawed humanity.
It’s when I take these truths to heart that I quit criticizing. I find contentment in the past and abundant joy in the future. The regrets and scars fade away and all that I see is His perfect redemption coming full circle. And it is in His perfect redemption that I learn to fully embrace this beautiful complexity in which He lovingly placed us.
“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which 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. You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:1-8
Resting in His Truth,
Despite what the pictures may portray, our time back in Europe was not spent on holiday. Our main objective was to scout out a certain region of the UK for future longterm missions and international prayer- to, for a short time, become integrated into the community and live missionally with the people there.
The Butt of Lewis Lighthouse
To be completely honest, it was a humbling place to be in. We were not in a certain position where we saw the fruits of our labor instantly or received instant gratification in any way- that wasn’t our purpose there. We were not there to shout the gospel from the rooftops or even lead people to Christ. We were there to live and serve alongside these people, to learn more about their heritage and culture, and in the process, learn more about ourselves and the unending love that the Father has for all nations.
Below is a write-up I did while we were still in Ness about our time and encounters there:
If there is one thing that I have learned during my stay in Ness, it’s to not have expectations. When you plan to go out, it will rain. When you plan to stay in and edit pictures, the weather will suddenly turn favorable. And on the days when the weather is favorable and you decide to go out, it will start raining on your way back. Scratch that, if there is one thing that I have learned, it is that you absolutely cannot predict the weather in Ness.
The objective of our trip to the Outer Hebrides was to gather information (mainly in photographic form) on the culture, history, language and people of Ness, so that people internationally could intercede in prayer for the Celtic/Gaelic people of this area. Our trip has turned into so much more than this, and has completely shattered any expectations we had coming in.
To be completely honest, we hardly spoke any Gaelic. The harsh truth is that the people who we came in contact with the most spoke little or no Gaelic, and often made the comment that we spoke and knew more than they did. To the younger generation in Northern Lewis, the language and heritage (including religion) of their father’s and forefather’s has little or no relevance to them today. Western culture has convinced them that the ways of their ancestors is “not for them”. Several people told me that if there was not a resurgence of young people who had a passion for their home and a desire to continue the way of life here that the very heartbeat of who these people are would slowly die out. Ness’ biggest export is their people. Their young people.
Life in Ness has never been easy. The weather is harsh- being right on the Atlantic brings lots of rain and sometimes up to 200mph gales. The ground is tough, making any sort of farming a backbreaking effort. But the less than desirable living conditions have made the people strong and resilient. They know how to work and because of their love for their home and their heritage, they do work. Their spirit and enthusiasm have blown me away! You would think that living here would make them hard and closed off, but they are some of the most loving, inviting and giving people I have ever met. They not only opened up their homes to us two young American girls who had nothing to give them in return, but they treated us like family.
The relationships we forged not only presented us with ministry opportunities, but on a deeper level have presented us with the opportunity to live missionally with these people. We have spent an evening stacking peat in the peat marshes where there was a need. We have spent many afternoons at friends’ tables drinking tea and discussing life and history and faith. We have trudged through sheep pastures to go discover new baby lambs that had just been born, and in the process of witnessing new life, ourselves regained an appreciation for how masterfully the Lord orchestrates new beginnings.
However, the surplus of character, hospitality, community and passion do not make up for the lack and genuine need for revival. Religion here is just that: religion. Being so far removed from the mainland of Scotland and change in culture and times has made it so that the church in Ness has remained steeped in tradition and stagnant in spiritual growth. They are content in attending church twice a week and not pursuing anything deeper because that is what they have always known. That is what Christianity “is”. Their idea of God and faith is easily summed up in their names appearing on an attendance sheet twice a week, but as a whole they have no concept or grid work for a God who is jealous for their heart, affections and a personal relationship with them. Church and religion are things you do, not who you are. To the younger generation, God is strict. God is harsh. God, in a way, has nothing to offer them anymore. They rebel because it’s the only thing to do.
The things we have observed over the past three weeks have been both encouraging and disheartening. It has been encouraging to see that there are still people who take pride in their heritage and land and who revere the ways of old that have shaped their lives and character today. On the opposite side of that is a younger generation who find no meaning or fulfillment of life in Ness. They have not fully taken hold of what the land has to offer them, and because of that have not found a greater purpose in their life here. Because of the lack of passion and motivation, most of the younger people have an early on addiction to alcohol. As one young man in the pub said the other night, “If we didn’t have alcohol, we wouldn’t have any purpose in living.” It’s a harsh truth, but one that others should be aware of. There is a gaping void in this place that desperately needs to be filled by the genuine love of Christ and His people.
There is nothing but room for the Holy Spirit to move and dwell- the potential is overwhelming. There is such hope in Ness, but there is a need. “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.”
During our trip to the UK last spring, we made a short stop in The Lake District of England and absolutely fell in love. The scenery and landscape was picturesque, and the people could not have been more friendly and inviting! We came to the UK early this year before our cultural exchange actually started, and we knew we wanted to spend those few days back in The Lake District!
“Hear the church bells ringing…”
A cruise up the Lake…
At it’s finest!
You come across the most beautiful sights while hiking off the beaten path
Walking up the streets of Ambleside
Loving every second in Windermere!
My summer home…#iwish
My favorite traveling partner!
Ambleside, I love you.
More to come!
Tonight, Rachel and I will be flying back to our beloved UK! We’ll be there for 5 weeks as a Media/Research team in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. Before we fly up to the Hebrides, we’ll be spending time in both England and Wales. Can’t wait to get back and dive into what I love doing!
We’ve been praying since we were 16 that the Lord would send us back to the UK to hopefully work in photography/media/research, and He has been faithful and provided us with the most amazing opportunity to go back for a third time! Can’t wait to see what He does in and through us- prayers are much appreciated!
We’ll have plenty of opportunities to blog and update, so hopefully I’ll be able to post some picture updates while I’m gone :)
See ya in 5!