The life of the unexpected

Forest Glen Collage

{Forest Glen Bible Camp, Nova Scotia}

It’s a Saturday afternoon. I should be at work. I’m not because I’m quite sick. Instead, I’ve spent the day sitting weakly in this squishy brown chair, coughing my lungs out and trying not to move too much so my muscles won’t ache as badly.

I just reached the end of a crazy month. I spent a week and a half in the North Carolina mountains towards the middle of July, then worked like crazy for the week after I got home, then left again for a week in Nova Scotia on a mission trip.

Both trips were great experiences. I spent so much time outside, which is rare for me. The mountains were beautiful (although those roller-coaster roads were a little less than thrilling to me…), and Nova Scotia’s coast was absolutely breathtaking.

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{Lake Toxaway/Brevard, North Carolina}

But these trips weren’t without their difficulties and complications.

I was supposed to get some studying done on the first trip, so I’d be ready to finish up and take the test the week I was home. But those crazy mountain roads didn’t pair too well with taking copious notes. And I returned home to a crazy work schedule and meetings for the mission trip and appointments galore. I had no time to even so much as touch my textbook.

Well, somehow I made it through that week, then it was time to head off for Canada. Our team had been warned we’d need to be prepared to be flexible, and boy, did we ever. We flexed so much we could’ve been Olympic gymnasts. Instead of just working with the kids at this family camp, we did everything from painting porches to rebuilding swing sets to hauling bags of winter clothes out of a basement to cleaning cabins to serving meals. It was quite the week and we had a blast, but it did involve some trying unexpected situations. The things you take for granted…we had no cell phone data up in Canada and couldn’t find a Walmart! We had to call home to get someone to Google it for us and read off the directions.

Also while in Nova Scotia, I faced some unexpecteds with people. From the two older ladies in our group who only met the day of our departure spending the whole week giggling together like kindergartners, to surprising conversations I had with other camp staff and “my” kids, I was forced to come to terms with my preconceived notions and then some. 

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{Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia}

But perhaps the most difficult unexpecteds were the ones that involved expectations and hopes being let down. I had to take several of those hard-to-swallow experiences this summer, and am facing a few more this week as a result of being sick. I think we all know these sort of things happen to everyone, but in reality we tend to forget they will happen to us as well. We forget how much confusion and hurt permeates the experiences until we’re in the thick of them.

When you’re hit with a huge disappointment or even a small letdown, how do you respond? Can you find a way to praise God even in the midst of pain? Can you trust Him with the outcome, even though you can’t see past the smoke?

Trusting God with your circumstances doesn’t necessarily mean they’re going to be any less painful. What it means is that you’re living surrendered to Him, knowing He knows best and letting Him lead rather than trying to snatch back control of your life. It means choosing to say, “God, I don’t know what You’re doing, but I’m trusting You in this moment. I know You are faithful. I will depend on You to get me through this and lead me to whatever You have for me.”

It’s not easy. But if it were easy to trust, would trust really mean so much? It’s through trusting God in the painful moments that we really show our devotion.

And so, despite these difficulties and letdowns, I will keep pressing on and trusting Him to work it out into a greater picture than I can imagine.

How have you been learning to trust God recently?

 

“Your words can change the world”

It’s that time of year when the school year is drawing to a close. Programs are winding down, and schedules are changing.

Tomorrow is the end-of-year party for our homeschool co-op. It’s a bittersweet moment. Because of how school is shaping up for me, it’s looking like I’m not going back to co-op next year.

This is it. This is…the end.

It’s been an interesting year, junior year. It’s been really rough and has worn me down at times as I’ve learned how to balance work and school and other commitments. And I’ve grown so weary of the ever-present college debate. I’ve written much about that recently, but some things are still waiting to be finalized and I’m not sharing those words with the whole world just yet. But I will say this: What an opportunity it has been to learn how God works! In the moments I have needed it most, He has sent me overwhelming love and encouragement from others, including some who didn’t even know me.

One of the greatest things about co-op this year was the opportunity to teach a class. Last May, when the whole registration process began, I saw an opportunity to realize a dream I’d had for a while–to teach a class of young writers. How it all came about is a God story in and of itself, and that’ll be for another time. But in any case, September 11, day one of co-op, rolled around and I found myself starting last period with a table full of eager faces.

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It’s been a year full of laughter and head-banging and joy with these fourth and fifth graders. They never fail to make me smile. I’ve learned a lot about teaching and specifically working with a group from them. And I’ve been blessed to be a part of their writing journeys that are only just beginning.

Over the year, I read them lots of snippets from a wonderful book that was monumental in encouraging and teaching me as I started writing: Spilling Ink by Anne Mazer and Ellen Potter. And so, for the end of the year, I’m giving each of the remaining students a copy of the book. I had fun writing in them this afternoon.

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The best part, though, was turning to the last page of the book where I knew a special encouragement was printed, and adding my own.

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If there’s one thing I want my students to come away from the class having learned, it’s this:

Your words matter.

Your words are powerful.

Your words can change the world.

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May this be a reminder to all of us today: Our words matter. Our words are powerful. Our words can change the world.

Let’s make sure we choose wisely.

 

 

 

Beauty & wonder

What I love most about photography is its ability to show the world in a whole new way. When I am taking pictures, I’m looking at things differently.

I’m looking for the beauty.

In faces, in arrangements of things, in nature, in lighting. I’m looking at it with an eye to appreciate, and to show others that as well. I’m looking with intentional awe and wonder.

And my favorite thing to do with the resulting images is to share them. To inspire others to awe as well. My goal in nature photographs is to inspire the world to praise the Creator. May these few images be a blessing to you and a reason to praise Him today.

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Psalm 1:3 – He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.

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1 Chronicles 16:33 – Then shall the trees of the forest sing for joy before the Lord.

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Psalm 104:19 – He made the moon to mark the seasons; the sun knows its time for setting.

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Isaiah 40:8 – The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever.

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Matthew 6:26 – Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?

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James 1:17 – Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.