Seeking Joy In The Valley

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I will admit, it has been a while since I have posted. I could say that I’ve been busy, which I have. I could say that life recently has been stressful, which it has. However if I was honest with myself, a large reason why I have not posted is because my heart just hasn’t been in it recently. I’ve been waiting for some fire of inspiration to burn inside my chest but I’ve come to realize that hardly do we ever find what we were never seeking.

Lately I’ve been reading a lot about God’s presence. It’s easy to read about when you’re living in the peaks of life. When God has raised you up and you feel so far above the chaos of this world, it takes very little effort to feel His arms around you. Life isn’t always lived in the mountains though. With every stretch of mountains comes a stretch of valleys and it is in those valleys that we must remember what we should be seeking.

I am a worrier by nature. More often than not if I encounter a large bout of stress from school, friends or other commitments, worrying is my first reaction. If I’m not careful, it sort of becomes like an autopilot system where I go though life jumping from one horrible conclusion to the next. I’ve gotten deeper into the first semester of the school year and like every school year, the classes have gotten harder and the workload has gotten larger. I’ve gained more friends but with friendships comes the occasional drama. My little worrying self was getting more overwhelmed by the day till finally God decided to give me a wake up call.

I was spending one night with my friends, just talking, when all of a sudden I felt very tired. Now I’m a college student, so naturally being tired is something you just get used to. This was a different kind of tired though, like I had gone a week straight without sleep kind of tired. I lost almost all physical strength to stand or walk and couldn’t speak without slurring my words. I was taken to the hospital and spent the next 5 hours or so getting blood work and a head scan. I went back to the dorm with the slim knowledge that everything looked okay, but that I may have had a small seizure due to lack of sleep and extreme amounts of stress.

I may worry a lot, but I had never experienced anything that could compare to that night before. God used this as a not so gentle reminder to rely on Him to take care of me in the good times and especially in the harder times, because we just weren’t created with enough stamina to rely only on ourselves.

Just yesterday, I heard the news that my cousin had gotten into a very serious car accident and had been rushed to the hospital in critical condition. I started to fear for his life and worry what my family must be going through as they sat in the hospital, while I was all the way in Indiana. I took a long walk and the prayers of some good friends of mine to compose myself. One of those friends decided to ask me a question that night and it’s been stuck in my head since then: Do you feel joy?

Until then I hadn’t realized how public my anxiety had been and began to realize that in the midst of this valley of my life, maybe I had forgotten to show the joy that God has given me. It’s not that my joy had vanished when I transitioned from mountain to valley, because nothing can take away the joy that God gives us through salvation. I just forgot to continually seek out and represent examples of the joy that God has given me. It’s much easier to express joy when the conditions of life are what we would consider favorable, but when we walk into a valley where the sun doesn’t always shine as bright, it’s not so easy.

“You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11

Even though our path of life goes off into a valley, I can still have a “fullness of joy” because I know that God will always be there for me. The last verse of “In Christ Alone” also expresses that not matter what happens in this life, nothing can take our joy away.

No guilt in life, no fear in death,
This is the power of Christ in me;
From life’s first cry to final breath.
Jesus commands my destiny.
No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home,
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand.

I’ve decided that to keep myself on track and constantly be reminded of why I have joy, I have a mason jar that I’ve dubbed my “Joy Jar.” Every time I find a reason to have joy, I write it on a piece of paper. When my jar becomes full, I’ll be able to look back through on all the blessings God has given me. I am committed to making joy a consistent part of my walk through this valley and for the rest of my journey.

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God In All Stories: Tess of the D’Urbervilles

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One of my favorite classes that I’m taking this semester is called Valuing Through Literature. The whole class is about finding out what your values are by reading novels and either agreeing or disagreeing with what the character’s values are. The first book we read is called Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy. I won’t go into what the novel is about because it’s four hundred pages long and pretty depressing, but I do want to share one of my favorite quotes. This quote is meaningful to me because it shows that God permeates all stories, even works of fiction. You just have to look for him.

“Did you say the stars were worlds, Tess?”

“Yes.”

“All like ours?”

“I don’t know; but I think so. They sometimes seem to be like the apples on our stubbard-tree. Most of them splendid and sound-a few blighted.”

“Which do we live on-a splendid one or a blighted one?”
“A blighted one.”

“Tis very unlucky that we didn’t pitch on a sound one, when there were so many more of ’em!”

This quote comes from a conversation between Tess, a sixteen year-old farm girl, and her younger brother towards the beginning of the novel. It amazes me how this simple metaphor pictures our reality so perfectly. Our world used to be so beautiful, so wonderful, so perfect: a world without hurt, pain, or death. God walked with his creation and had a bond which we can only dream of till we go home to him. But God gave us free will. He allowed his almighty power to be limited (for the only thing that can limit God is himself), so that we could make our own choices. Sadly mankind fell, dropping our apple of a world and causing it to be bruised, disfigured and blighted. So yes our world is broken and in this brokenness we have been taught a disturbing lesson: that we can trust no one but ourselves. Others will let you down and fail you. None of us are perfect, I’ll admit that, but the world is telling us to believe that not only can we not trust others but we can’t trust God. God will let you down and fail you. But this is absolutely not true, hence the strikethrough. When the world shoves us around do you know what God calls us to do? Accept it. But Emily, do you mean God wants us to just get over cancer, world hunger and war? Not at all. What I’m saying is that God wants us to trust him enough, trust his sovereignty and faithfulness, that we can accept our circumstances and the conditions of our bodies knowing God is still working. Sometimes it feels like the world expects more from us than we think we can give. As a college student (even if it’s only been three weeks) I know how that feels. Days like this force us to make a choice: either give up because the world’s too blighted, or trust that God’s in the middle of healing it. Even if we do choose to give up, God doesn’t give up on us. God will help us through our discouragement and give us strength moment by moment, because there’s not one moment when we can get by without him.

A devotional I read recently proves this point perfectly. It was about the moment Peter trusted God enough to try the unthinkable: walking on water. And you know what: he actually did it for some amount of time. The author goes on to say how in the Bible it doesn’t really say if Jesus was saying anything to Peter as he stepped into the raging seas, but if He did, it might have been something along the lines of “Don’t look down.” Ever notice how when we take our attention and focus off of God, that’s when the world seems the most overwhelming? The Bible says there was a point in which Peter looked away from Jesus to the waves. In that moment, Peter went from thinking about how capable God was, to how incapable he was. Peter saw a blighted world which he was expected to face and immediately worried about how he could survive, instead of how God was already helping him thrive. So he began to sink. The author compares this moment to the old Wile. E. Coyote cartoons. Notice how in chasing after the roadrunner, the coyote is able to run off of cliffs without falling: till the moment he looks down and takes his focus off the roadrunner and onto his circumstances. But even though Peter messed up and doubted, Jesus was still right there to pull him out of the water. Even though we do live in a blighted world, we have a sovereign God who will never let us down or fail us.

Prayer Concerns:

-My granny is in the hospital with pneumonia

-I am donating blood tomorrow and I’m a little nervous. But maybe I could save a life!

-A dear friend of mine needs some financial provision in his life to follow his calling

The Biggest Blessings

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“Heaven offers nothing that a mercenary soul can desire. It is safe to tell the pure in heart that they shall see God, for only the pure in heart want to.”

-from The Problem of Pain, C.S. Lewis

I’ve been reading lately in my nightly devotionals about blessings and actually heard a sermon about the Be-attitudes on Sunday, so I thought I would dive deeper in what God may be saying on the subject of blessings. My absolute favorite bible I own is a C.S. Lewis Bible I got for Christmas. It’s basically a New Revised Standard Version but with quotes from C.S. Lewis’ books, essays and letters intermixed next to the Scripture where he took his inspiration from. The quote above is from Matthew 5:1-12. It intrigues me to think that it is only those in the darker situations of life who really rely or look to these promises. When we are truly down on our luck, it means so much to know we have an eternal kingdom promised to us. When we lose a loved one, it is then we can be comforted by the one who loves us the most. When we are humbled for what we lack, we are given more than we can imagine. When we are famished for just one word of encouragement, each verse is so much more meaningful. For those who struggle to see past the darkness in the world, they are the ones who see God moving still. Those who work to bring peace when everyone else is at each other’s throats, those people become representatives of God. When we are beat down, lied about, rejected, scorned, and reviled by the world: we are so much closer to God. When everything we rely on fails us, do we not cling tighter to God’s waist like a child to their parent?

A devotion I had a few nights ago was talking about how there is no place so desolate that we can’t find God. It gave the example of Hagar in Genesis 16. Now compared to me, this girl had a lot more to complain about than I do. She was an Egyptian slave owned by Sarai, Abraham’s wife. Because Sarai couldn’t have children, she offers Hagar up to Abraham so they can have a child together. So Abraham does. Nowhere does it say that they asked Hagar what she wanted, but she was a slave. Already the story is pretty sad. So when Hagar gets pregnant she’s pretty glad that she actually has something that her master doesn’t. Maybe she was snooty about it, we don’t know, but what does Sarai do? She freaks out to Abraham who honestly doesn’t really care what she does with Hagar. My version says she “dealt harshly with her,” causing Hagar to run away. So Hagar’s alone, pregnant and in the wilderness. Ever have those kinds of moments? But God shows up. He tells her to go back and that she’ll be blessed by having so many offspring that “they cannot be counted for multitude.” So does Hagar complain? She had a right to. We complain about lesser things. But she doesn’t. Hagar praises God calling Him the Living God who sees me.

The point: our darkest moments are when God’s light can shine the brightest. When we experience pain, confusion or loss God is right there wanting to embrace us. Does our pain break His heart? Absolutely. Parents, how many times have your children come to you crying? Did it not hurt to see them so broken? But remember those moments: you sitting there holding that little person, rocking them back and forth, bonding in a way you could never do when they’re bouncing off the walls. Being on the opposite end of that, when my mom held me it was like a force field. Nothing bad could exist in that moment, and I have all of those tough times to thank for the close relationship I have with her now. So yes, life can be hard. Papers, drama with friends, and stress and work are just a few of the darker moments we can experience. But I’m choosing to seek God all the more for those who are blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

Prayer Requests:

-A Professor of Business here at Anderson tragically passed away a few days ago. Please keep their family in your prayers. His youngest son still attends here.

-Inspiration for this English paper, because I need 6-8 pages of something to talk about haha 🙂

The First Post!

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As you can see from the title, this is the very first post on my blog! I honestly have been debating whether or not I wanted to make a blog in the first place but as you can see I have. I’ve only been away at college (Anderson University, go ravens!) for a week now and already many people have been asking about me. Thanks guys 🙂 So I’ve created this blog so you can see what kind of excitement, boredom, drama and other adventures I’m having while I’m away. Who knows? Maybe I’ll even keep this going for a while.

Today’s been a pretty slow day. Almost half of the girls on my hall went home this weekend, leaving me, my roommate Jessica and a few other friends here to “chill” or something. Luckily, both our families came up here to visit! Since it’s Saturday we both took the liberty to sleep in till 11 giving ourselves enough time to get ready before our families arrived. Besides visiting us and bringing us things we’d forgotten, they were here to help us move our beds. See we’re living in Rice Hall (the freshman girls hall) which is the only dorm here that hasn’t been renovated since it was built in the 70’s I think. Whoever designed this place must have been high on something because our room is shaped like a Z. We have a cubby hole area for our desks/dressers/closets and a cubby hole area for our beds. To save space, we moved our beds today to look like an L. My bed is raised up and Jessica’s is lying perpendicular underneath granting us enough room to add a chair.

Another not so nice thing about my dorm is that the water from the sinks is nasty. If you fill your water bottle there, it will be so cloudy that someone could mistake it for lemonade. Since I’m too lazy to walk down the 3 flights of stairs to the drinking fountain in the lobby, I have not been able to make coffee with my little coffee maker all week because I refuse to drink “mystery water.” But today my loving mother bought me a Brita water purifier. So guess what I’ll be making now 🙂

Also, today was my brother Connor’s birthday! I can’t believe he’s twelve already. I bought him a birthday frappe from the coffee place on campus. According to him, it was better than McDonald’s. Am I a great gift giver or what? Well that’s about all I have to say for today. More posts to follow hopefully!