we can’t perfect everything.

There is messiness here. It’s in the unknown, the deep, and the meaningful. It’s unavoidable. But sometimes, I think I can get around it by controlling and perfecting. By studying like ham so the variable of failing isn’t an option. I think that if I could just eat healthy and sleep well every single day, I will never feel tired. And we all know by now that through trying to do that, we are putting our lives a box. We may take the unknown out of the box, but when we do so, we also take the “real” out of “real life.” Vulnerability is messy, but so necessary. And one of the ways we avoid it is by trying to perfect things.

I have not been stressed lately. It’s weird. I’ve never heard myself say that. Finals are next week. Everyone else at this school is drowning right now. I mean my circumstances aren’t much better, but I guess things just haven’t been getting to me. My bike chain split in half while riding to class today. I have a midterm tomorrow on material that is so weird. I had a presentation for my dance final today. I have to memorize over 500 morphemes for my classics final. But I’m not feeling the weight of anything. I’m going into these finals with really solid grades, and I just have to keep them. I feel like the hard work has been done already, especially for my chemistry class. But I also just know that everything that is supposed to get done will get done, and that the best I can do is enough. Maybe I’ve been feeling so at peace because the weather here has become so nice. Maybe it’s because reviewing a practice exam outside in the grass under the night sky and seeing everyone freak out over the giant turkey blocking the entrance to their dorm made me laugh so hard and forget about everything.

Or maybe it’s because I actually have grown in this mindfulness thing. And this school thing. I think I finally figured something out.

2 weeks ago I was doing my 2-practice-tests-a-day-for-a-week ritual for my chemistry midterm. I was on practice test #6 in the ministry house when Michael, one of the staff leaders came to see what I was doing.

“What are you up to?” He asked me.

“Drawing 3-D orbital structures! Wanna see?” I showed him the pile of practice tests I had already taken.

“You know, you’re really doing the right thing here by studying like this. Because when you study like this, the studying is the hardest part. On test day you’ll just be chilling.”

“But sometimes you study like this and still fail,” I said, laughing.

He nodded slowly and said, “Yeah, you’ll have some of those sometimes. But the point is, you’re doing everything you can.” He gave me a thoughtful nod and then patted my shoulder.

Doing everything you can.

You can’t perfect everything. The equations won’t always add up. Sometimes your self-care game will be strong and anxiety will still knock the wind out of you. You can spend time with God every day and have a day or so in between where He feels so distant. You can be fighting for your peace and not feel it. That is the messy. In those times, there is beauty. It doesn’t mean you screwed up somewhere or that something is wrong with you. It just means the life you’re living is real. Real, vulnerable, and beautiful. But there is an expectation that if we do everything right, everything in life will go right as well.

And that is exactly what the problem is. I have an expectation for my performance. It’s high. I want my life to be this box wrapped with a ribbon of perfect grades, healing, and restoration in my life and the lives of those around me. And yet God’s way of growing my faith is by disappointing my expectations.

That’s weird, right? We always talk about the God who meets and exceeds are expectations. We talk about the God of abundance, healing, and breakthrough. We talk about the God that’s promised us peace and life everlasting, a God that will overflow our cup and give us more than we could ever imagine.

But what if God is still doing everything He promised to do? Have you ever thought God was gonna do something? That’s exactly what the problem is. We are living in the prison of our expectations. We are living in the prison of our plans. We are living in the prison of what we thought God would do or should do or is supposed to do. We spend so much time wondering if God is good because something didn’t go as planned. There are some things in our lives that we are trying to figure out right now, and that’s a prison. Because what if he is able to do so much more than we could immeasurably imagine?

What if God doesn’t meet our expectations because he wants to exceed them?

So the way He grows my faith is usually to disappoint my expectations.

Because God is trying to deliver us from what we thought He was. He needs to, because He is just so much more than that.

We think He is going to come through in a certain way, so we become disappointed. What if God is still working behind the scenes in ways that are just so extravagant but we can’t see them because our heads are too wrapped up in what we thought He was gonna do? His plan is so much better than what we thought. His purpose is so much bigger than what we hoped for.

We need our faith to rest not in who we thought God was, but what He is. We spend so much time in our minds trying to figure out whether God is good or trying to figure out whether life makes sense. But that’s a prison. We can’t figure it out that way. We can’t figure it out by trying to figure it out with our human brains. It’s going to take faith. It’s going to take something greater than us. It’s going to take a really, really big God.

And we’re gonna have to decide whether we are going to interpret Him through the lense of our expectations, or set our expectations on the basis of who He is. God uses our disappointment to develop our character. The devil uses our disappointment to destroy us. It’s what we do with that disappointment that matters.

I’ve been disappointed by the way things work out. I go to a giant college that’s trying to weed out all the pre-meds and science majors. I’ve wondered if it’s always going to be as  brutal as last quarter. I’ve wondered if I’m going to have to live with anxiety forever.

But everything that God has promised is still a promise. I can attest to His deliverance. I can tell you countless stories of His goodness. Just read through some of my older posts if you need proof that He is good. It’s just different from what I thought. And as long as I am trapped in the prison of what I thought, I can’t accept what God is doing right now. My expectation is not that my faith will make everything pleasant, but that God is here and is fighting these battles. That there is a greater purpose and a greater meaning behind everything.

Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. Part of that freedom is the freedom from what you thought getting set free was supposed to look like. Because let me tell you what I wanted being set free to look like: magic. Magic is my close-minded, one-dimensional expectation of what God is supposed to be. Of course I was disappointed when I didn’t get magically cured from all my life’s struggles.

But now that I’m at this point in my life where there are still plenty of waves around me and I have found so much peace and rest, I can tell you that God was immeasurably more than magic. That thing that allowed me to fall seven times and stand up eight, that was God. That thing that gives me the strength day in and day out to study my face off, that’s God. The grace I received in every fallout, that was God.

And He’s been telling me that there were things I would never perceive. He’s been saying, “All the people who text you when they don’t understand math homework, that is me. The girl you met in the laundry room who was stuck on that practice exam you spent hours figuring out, and getting to walk her through how you did it, that was me. The girl you studied with last night who thinks she’s going to fail chem for the second time, that is me. That is me working through you to the people in all of your classes.” I might be pissed at God if she doesn’t pass now because it makes me so angry to see how hard people work and how it doesn’t work out. And that is exactly my flaw. I need to drop my rules for how this world is supposed to work and embrace the work God is doing in my life right now.

He is healing me in ways that are not what I thought. Goodness and mercy will follow me throughout all the days of my life, but it might be in a way that I have not anticipated.

My friend gave me a word a few weeks ago.

“I see you walking around with these chains on you dragging you down. And you have gotten so used to them that you are now okay with the fact that you will never run again and have even forgotten how. But God is telling you that running is exactly what you need, so to do that you need to shed off those chains that you have been so accustomed to and run. He wants this for you because it is good to run and live in that freedom that He has called us to know and love.”

When I first received this, I was angry. I was tired of hearing that I could truly become set free. I was tired of wrestling with Him.

But God has been saying, “No. I want you to wrestle with me. I don’t want you to put me in a box. I don’t want you to be stuck with your small view of me.”

I want the box wrapped with a ribbon. But God’s perspective is on eternity.

“There are things that you are going through that make no sense. I didn’t cause all of them, but I can promise you that I am using all of them.”

So forget what you thought He was supposed to do. Take God out of the box. Forget what you wish your life looked like. God’s agenda will always involve a piece of mystery. You won’t be able to figure it out. He is doing something in your life right now. And all you’re supposed to do is partner with Him in the best of your ability in openness to it. You don’t have to do anything. You just have to be. Be present, not perfect. Be loved, and be where you are. And trust that you are exactly where you are supposed to be.

Lea

 

 

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Here, Now…

On Friday, I went to a poetry night that my fellowship organized. There were lots of fire poems and fire words. Here’s an awkward video of what I shared:

I have a lot of thoughts right now! I just signed a lease to live in a ministry house. I have a giant midterm tomorrow. It’s week 9 of the quarter, which means 2 weeks until finals. And I haven’t written a poem on this blog in a really long time, and the people who shared really inspired me to write another one.

So I wrote one! 🙂

~

Here, now

Your heart is beating. Your legs hold you up.

Your shoulders hold your arms, which bring movement to your wrists

So your fingers can play those instruments

that bring so much joy to Him.

 

Here, now

You work so hard

to keep the night away from your sky

away from the dreams you have

that should work out as long as you try.

 

Here, now

You carry the weight of how much you try

There are bags under your eyes

Where have you lost your peace?

The night has crept into your sky

 

Here, now

Secuirty and rest.

Those things can’t manifest.

Unless you do your best

and let God have all the rest.

 

Here, now

We think controlling is the answer

that perfecting will prevent us

from our fear of the unknown.

Our thoughts race through our minds

planning, and planning,

believing if we just work hard enough

Things will go our way.

And that it is the only way to prevent pain.

 

But here, now

the anxiety is high

It all fell through.

You wonder why it didn’t work out

That goes against your book of rules.

 

Here, now

Equations don’t measure up.

x plus y wasn’t z

your hard work didn’t succeed.

2 + 2 wasn’t four

You prayed every day for breakthrough

Your healing didn’t fall through the floor.

2 times 5 wasn’t ten.

You wonder why God hasn’t healed you yet.

So much suffering in this world

it just doesn’t make sense.

 

7 plus 7 isn’t fourteen

When I say God is good, it makes you angry

You think you’re doing something wrong

You can’t figure out what it is

You think maybe you can work harder to fix all this brokenness—

 

But stop.

Stop.

Stop and pick up that instrument.

Remember who you play it for.

You can work as hard as you want

Will that give your soul rest?

It’s okay to feel stressed

Studying for another test

Got a to-do list piling up

you’re tempted to control and perfect.

But following Jesus with your whole heart

will bring the only real success.

 

Here, now

Your thoughts are becoming more like His thoughts

Your mind is being transformed

Your feelings have become deeper

But you are angry about the right things.

Your dreams are aligned with His dreams

and everything you ask Him for, you receive.

Because now you can finally see things

the way that He sees.

 

Here now,

x plus y isn’t always z

God defies logic all the time.

That’s what gives all the unknowns of our life beauty.

Embrace it, acknowledge it, you can’t avoid the messy.

You can’t heal by avoiding the broken

You can’t find freedom in what is perfect.

That is where the answer lies

to being grateful and content with where you are right here in life.

~

I saw a girl sitting by the service desk where the owner of the AirPods I found in a puddle while walking to class said she would meet me. She got the name, time, and place of where she lost them right.

“Are you Lily?” I asked.

The sweet girl smiled and stood up. “Yes!”

“I think these are yours!” I handed them to her. “You’re going to have to re-pair them to your phone, but yeah!”

“Omygosh! Thank you! Thank you so much! Can I buy you a drink or something to repay you?”

“Awe, no you don’t have to!”

“But I want to!”

We walked outside in front of the market.

“Lily,” I started. She listened.

“I don’t know how you feel about miracles, but this was a miracle. What were the chances that I would be walking to class at that exact time, on that exact path, and that I would actually see them in the puddle and pick them up? What were the chances that they would still work, and that you would find my Facebook post and be able to contact me? You don’t know how many people contacted me asking if they were theirs. People even were commenting asking if the price was negotiable!” I cried laughing. “But none of them were you.”

I took a breath. “So I don’t think this is an accident. If you want to repay me, the best way you can do that would be to take this as a sign that you are loved. That God loves you, and is looking out for you, and is real. I think the reason why all of this happened is because God need you to know just that in this moment.”

“Omygosh I’m going to cry!” She said, and hugged me again.

“Awe. I’m so glad this worked out.”

“Thank you so, so much!” she said, tearing up.

“Of course, girl! I’ll see you around!”

Later that evening she texted me another thank you, that coming to a foreign country and being met by such kindness meant so much to her. She was a foreign exchange student from China.

“You’re such a good person!” She texted me with a bunch of crying emojis afterwards.

This isn’t even about me, I thought, laughing in my dorm. I don’t make things like this happen. God does. They keep happening to me and I don’t even try. This is about her. This is about how much God loves her. I was reminded once again that I don’t need to be anything for God to use me. I just had to walk to class like I normally do. I just had to work from a place of love. I just had to be me. Yes, I was doing a lot better in school now than I was last quarter. But God doesn’t need my grades to use me. He doesn’t need us to do anything. But He wants us anyways. And our main purpose is to bring that love to the people around us. To a bring a love that casts out perfection. A love that shakes up the rules we have for the way life works. A love that tears our walls against Him down.

“You are so loved,” I texted her back. “Please don’t ever forget that.”

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As you find me…

I’ve been strong and I’ve been broken within a moment

I’ve been faithful and I’ve been reckless at every bend

I’ve held everything together and watched it shatter

I’ve stood tall and I have crumbled in the same breath…

Dear God,

I’m low key a little angry at you. Am I really going to be battling anxiety for the rest of my life? Will I really be struggling with the same things for the rest of my life? Is it just a part of who I am that I have to deal with? Or is there really so much more freedom to experience? Well I know there is always more freedom to experience. I’m confused. I’m confused because I know there is always so much more hope, but I’m wondering if this is as good as it gets. I’m wondering if I will always find myself face first at different altars every single week as people try to break me free from things that I’m not even sure I will ever experience full healing from. I’m so sick of altars.

But whenever we start to ask if there is more, there is always more. And man, you revealed a lot this week.

~

One year ago, Dec. 7th 2017 – A post I started and never posted

They don’t get it.

I have been tutoring so much lately, trying to teach these students to work hard and practice stuff until they can’t get it wrong. I’ve been trying to teach them to ask themselves what they know and what they can do before they give up, to learn the material as a whole rather than to try and get a grade. But what I really want them to see is what I see. I want them to know that they are priceless. When they fail, I want them to correct their mistakes and try again. I’m fighting with them like crazy to show them how worth it they are. But now that the underclassmen saw me on that panel and giving campus tours, the students I tutor seem to look at me like I’m some magical unicorn who knows everything, which is an honor, but the reality is that I’m not a unicorn. I am still a student. I am still learning. I am just a little bit farther on the journey y’all are struggling to get through.

I asked my teacher if she entered the retake one of my girls took after she corrected it. She replied, “I don’t know. Do you think I should give her another test to see if she really knows it or just give her the grade?”

The student in me wanted her to just put in the dang grade. Give her an A. I would want an A. The A would feel good.

But the tutor in me knew that she needed to know this stuff. That grades were not just a letter. She needed to be so confident in this stuff that she could conquer it without me.

And then I realized there was a giant paradox inside of me. Little did they know that their tutor probably doesn’t practice the very practices she is urging them to do.

On Tuesday, I went into see my AP bio test that I got a B on, and after seeing the questions I missed, I cried for 10 minutes. My best friend’s boyfriend was all like, “What test did you fail this time?”

“AP bio. I didn’t even do bad. It’s fine.”

He burst into this incredible fit of laughter. “I should’ve asked you, what did you not do well enough on this time?”

I told him to shut up and let me cry, and then we both just started laughing. I knew this was dramatic and ridiculous. I wiped the tears away in 10 minutes and moved on with my life, but I still had to cry for those 10 minutes because feeling inadequate hurts. And the way I reacted to those mistakes made me far more upset than the actual mistakes. Because I was conditioned to react that way from all those years I spent in my broken middle school. Because my body didn’t know any other way.

I’m a few years more mature in knowing how to study. I’m a few more years mature in handling my emotions and failing tests. But that is all. I’m trying to teach them that they are still enough even when they fail, that their very best is enough. But I’m still learning those things. I’m not better than them. I struggle with tests, the same way they do. I don’t want to try in school sometimes, the same way they feel. I feel inadequate sometimes the same way they do. And when I see them feeling that way, when I see their efforts not amounting to their grades, it hurts me too. It hurts because I’ve been there, because maybe I’m doing something wrong as a tutor. It hurts because I know how much it hurts. I have access to the grade book. I could literally enter in As for all of them. I could shortcut the numbers and cover up the pain. And to be honest, I really want to. I really want to take away their struggle in an instant.

But I can’t. Well first that’s a huge integrity breach, hahaha. But I can’t because I know that as they struggle, they are learning how to navigate every other math class they will have to take at this school. I had to go through it too. I spent years wondering if I would struggle with math forever. And I still do. Calculus sucks. But by the grace of God, I actually made it there when I wasn’t supposed to. Through the journey God taught me how to navigate that struggle and worship him through it, and that is what has made all the difference. And now I’m trying to prevent these students from becoming like me. I’m trying to prevent them from becoming people that take every mistake as a sign that they aren’t good enough early on.

But I’ll be here for you. And I’ll walk with you. And I’ll cry with you. Even outside of this class. I’ll walk with you through the depths. I’ll be here to help you navigate the unknowns, and remind you of how much hope there is, my teacher and I would say.

God doesn’t purposely make us suffer to prove a point. But if the healing doesn’t come in an instant, and if the healing is a journey, then I truly believe that the journey is going to bring something way more heavenly than instantaneous healing. Still, even in the journey, we can still have hope for the day it all makes sense, the day we finally arrive and are face-to-face with the maker, completely healed, where we truly belong.

~

Wednesday, February 13th

“Chem midterms are in!” Someone shrieked during discussion. Panic exploded throughout the room.

The class average was a 57%. That meant 57 was a C, 67 was a B, and 77 was an A.

God, I felt really good about this. But if I didn’t do as well as I thought, and I end up on another spiral of anger and negativity as a result of my brokenness, you are still on your throne. You are still always making things new, I said. I took a deep breath and checked.

89/101.

I fell back into my chair and almost screamed.

“Are you okay?” the people around me asked.

“Yeah. I did good. Did you guys do good?”

“Yeah! We got Bs with the curve. Super happy!!”

“Awe I’m so glad.” I turned to the girl I tutored the previous week.

“Did it go alright for you?” I asked.

“Yes! Lea! Another girl I was friends with who failed it last quarter didn’t pass. But I did, by barely a few points, but I still did! Thank you!”

Okay God. I’m sorry I doubted your goodness. I’m sorry I was angry at you and wondering if I was just going to fail forever. Thank you, God. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

I love chemistry. My first thought was, wow, I am a chemistry master. But even if I was one, God deserved all the glory. I had taken 11 practice tests total before this test. Each one was super hard, but God was a part of every single one. And this test was hard. I got super lucky on this one question because I tried some random numbers and they happened to balance the super long equation. At the end of the day, even with all that studying, I still could not have made that happen on my own. It was God. He strengthened me through all of those stupid classes in high school and all of those practice tests and homework problems to make this score happen.

I tried not to tell people what I got because comparison at this school is so real. So the only people who know are my T.A because he helped me in his office hours and I felt he earned the right to know, my small group leader, my family, my roommate, the teacher I T.Aed for back home, and my AP chem teacher, who I emailed later that day thanking him for making his AP chem class so hard as well.

It’s always a cause for celebration when your 57% becomes a C. But when God finally answers that prayer you’ve been praying for, and God exceeds the scale, geez. What more can you say but hallelujah.

I corrected my test and there were many mistakes I made. I could’ve still done better, if that was even possible.

Isn’t that so cool though? Even when God breaks through, there is still more room to grow. There is always more.

This isn’t the end. There are way more tests I’m going need God to deliver me through. But I just saw Him move a mountain. So I’m choosing to believe He’s going to do it again. I’m going to remember how long I waited for this moment. And in every aspect of my life, whether it be school, anxiety, or both, I’m going to remember that the journey is worth it. Because He will come through. And there will always be moments like this to look forward to.

~

I found a pair of Apple Air-Pods in a giant puddle while walking in the rain on the way to math lecture. I was shook. They still worked, so I posted something on my college’s lost and found Facebook page to try and find the owner because those things are expensive and there was a girl’s first name on the Bluetooth thing.

Nobody had reached out to me with the right name yet, so I figured I deserved to at least try them out. I put the wireless earbuds in my ears and began to play the new Hillsong single, “As You Find Me,” and began making a study sheet for my classics class.

I was found

Before I was lost

I was yours

Before I was not

Grace to Spare

For all my mistakes

And that part just wrecks me

You love me as you find me…

I dropped all my colored pens and set the study sheet aside. The lyrics settled in my soul and ignited this desire in me to move, so I began to dance, and dance, and dance. My emotions poured out of me through each movement, so eager to worship. The space in my dorm room became insufficient, so I opened the door and started improv dancing down the hallways, turning, jumping, falling, and rolling as the lyrics to this song continued to wreck me over and over. The joy was indescribable. My roommate walked by and was so confused.

Your love’s too good to leave me here

Your love’s too good to leave me here…

It was just last week when I was thinking about this. I thought I had given Him my everything already. I was saying, “I’m already neck deep. But you want me to submerge myself completely. And I don’t think your worth it.”

The dancing slowed down and I found myself in the middle of my dorm room on my knees.

If you want my heart

Then I won’t second guess

Because I need your love more than anything. 

I’m in

I’m yours

Your love is too good to leave me here…

I lifted my hands. The song was right. If He wanted me to go deeper, then I would just have to go in. Because I needed His love more than anything. Because you can’t understand what happened on the cross and think He’s not worth it. God, I am so broken. How do you even still want me? 

This is a God that finds us in all of our brokenness. And He paid the price for it. He loves and takes us in as we are.

Yet He is also a God who refuses to leave us here. He’s just way too good too. And the timing of the journey is perfect and one that we can trust.

2 yellow lamps lit the night of my dorm room. I was sweating and out of breath from such hardcore dancing. I don’t know how long it’s going to take me to heal from all this brokenness. And I know I’ve been struggling with these same thoughts for quite some time. But I also know that I’m not going to be stuck facing the same struggles for the rest of my life. Your love is too good to leave me here, I declared.

And even when you come through and exceed my expectations like you did today, even when I think that things are as good as they are going to get, you still find me in those places. Your love is also too good to leave me there.

I wanted to stay in that moment forever. So I got up from my knees and began dancing again.

~

Sunday, Feb 17th

So much for being sick of altars. Never thought I’d get wrecked by one in my college dorm. This should be proof that you don’t need to go anywhere fancy to encounter Jesus. Every time that song comes on while I’m studying, I just have to stop and lift my hands.

I’m actually home for the 3-day weekend! I got to take my roommate home with me too. Showing her all my favorite places in Sacramento has been so healing for me, as every place I’ve taken her has a story. We’ve visited the church I grew up at, the church I currently go to, my dance studio, and all the trails I love so much around my neighborhood. We even went ice skating last night. She thinks it’s crazy to see all of the stories and conversations we’ve had come to life, and each one reminds me of the goodness of God. To share all that with someone else has brought me a lot of joy.

A girl finally messaged me today and got the name on the Air-Pods right, along with the time and place she lost them correct! I’m glad I got to have such a great spiritual moment dancing with them in my ears, but I’m even more happy I get to return them to the right person. That post kind-of blew up on Facebook and so many people reached out to me that were not the right person so I was starting to lose hope. But she found my post, thankfully! The girl told me she bought them 4 months ago and thought she wasn’t going to get them back, and these things again are so expensive. But miracles do happen. She sounded so happy.

I am learning so much you guys. But the main thing I’m learning is that God is good.

 

 

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Grace Upon Grace

Dear God,

I never thought I would make it to a season like this. I thought life would always feel excruciatingly difficult with little moments of joy and breakthrough in between. I was wondering what the point in trying to change the way I think is if we are never going to fully escape the trials of this life. I was wondering if I would always feel like putting one foot in front of the other each day takes so much effort, and if I would always have to keep mustering up the courage to get back up again after getting hit down over and over and over again.

But I guess I’m starting to realize that life isn’t always like that. Yes, chasing meaning is always more important than chasing comfort. Yes, the only way to live real life is to be vulnerable and try things that may not work out and embracing all the discomfort that comes with that. The road isn’t always clear and nothing worth doing is ever easy. But that also doesn’t mean you will always feel like you’re drowning and fighting to keep your head above water. Last quarter, that is where I was at. I felt like I was just trying to survive somehow. Yet when I look back, even in the midst of my struggle, you really were right there. You really were holding me through each wave that knocked me down. You really did see me and chase me down. And my life was still so abundant first quarter even in the midst of everything I was going through. I had so many encounters with you. And I was beginning to learn what it really looked like to live a life of freedom, but wondered when it would stop being so difficult to fight for.

Many of my prayers have been getting answered. I applied for a spot to live in the Glory house next year, and there were only 4 open spots. And I got it as a sophomore, which usually doesn’t happen. So now I get to live with 8 other girls in a ministry house. I get to live with my small group leader and with people who are so passionate about loving so well, in a house where asking how someone’s faith is going will be normal. I get to live in a house full of girls who are passionate about vulnerability and partnering with one another in the dreams you gave us and putting you first.

My small group leader asked me to lead a freshman worship night alongside my friend, Kellie, and that was such an answered prayer as well. It was purely acoustic. The atmosphere was so beautiful. It was such an intimate worship experience shared by our class and our small group leaders. When we circled up and prayed at the end, it was clear our freshman class was something special. It was clear that you handpicked each one of us to be there at this specific time. It made me think back to my first week of college when I was so scared of attending such a giant school, but then I was met by people who were just so excited to love on us and walk with us. This group has been the ultimate answered prayer.

And then a girl from my giant school direct messaged me on Instagram that she has been reading my blog and thinks you led her to it. She said that she stopped going to DCF because she got so busy working while simultaneously being a full time student, but wanted to get closer to God again and asked me if we could meet up. I get to meet her sometime next week and I’m so excited.

I had a math midterm last week and everyone thought it was really difficult, but I thought it was so easy. Last quarter my math class nearly killed me, but I guess the stuff we’re doing in my math class now is more chill and similar to my high school calc classes. Even in high school I wondered what the point in all that suffering was but now it’s actually paying off.

And I have a chem midterm Friday. I have 13 practice tests total and I’ve done four so far. Today, my brain is fried. I know how to do everything yet sometimes when the questions change form I get confused and think I don’t know what I’m doing. And that is when I have to go back and just start the problem with what I was given, and try to transform it into what it’s supposed to be at the end.

After discussion on Wednesday this one girl who failed the class last quarter and was taking it again asked me and my lab partner how much we studied because we “seemed to know how to do everything.” That comment caught me off guard because I definitely don’t, and my sarcastically cocky lab partner definitely didn’t either though he always pretended to.

When we were walking out after class, she told me, “I always try to study but it just doesn’t make any sense. I feel like I’m just dumb.”

My heart broke. Anger stirred inside of me. “You’re not dumb. We all think differently. We all have to learn how to use what we have. No brain is better than another, just different.

When I took AP chem in high school, a friend of mine helped me with everything because I knew nothing. I wondered if I would ever be capable of catching on as quickly as she did. But my brain isn’t like hers. And I did better than her on many tests even though she taught me everything, because I learned to study in a way that worked for me and she didn’t study at all.

Seriously. Text me anytime you don’t get something. I love chemistry and so I’ve been studying it a lot. I’ve probably wrestled with the same problems you’re having too.”

“Actually yeah,” she said. “I’d love that.”

A few days later I met with her for an hour and she asked me all of her questions. She was surprised to find that things were not as terrible as she thought.

“Trust me, you’re not that far off. You’re not as far as you think you are,” I said, at the end.

“Yeah, I guess it just helps to go through it with someone else.”

So things were going great. And then I got knocked down again.

~

Tuesday, Feb 5th

It’s crazy how one small thing can lead to such a crazy spiral of anxiety.

After dance I saw that my math test was in, and I got 82/100. What? There was no way I got any less than an A. I knew everything on that test. The anxiety kicked in full swing as I tried to figure out what went wrong, landing on I must’ve just messed everything up because I’m stupid. And then my roommate was so scared of getting a grade like that as well which caused it to really spiral out of control when she was so relieved that she didn’t, and I found myself crying for a good two hours of my life.

And then I realized, omygosh. You just succumbed to your anxiety. You just let it control you for 2 hours of your day. And a B in that class especially is a very good grade. How come I managed to succumb to my anxiety today? I’ve been fighting so hard for my peace. I decided that maybe I would have to deal with it for the rest of my life, and that if finding the beauty in it was as good as it was going to get, maybe it wasn’t worth the fight.

Before large group, my friend Lindsey asked me, “Is everything alright? You don’t seem like yourself.” I told her I was freezing because it’s been pretty cold down here lately. I would tell her afterwards that she was so right.

That night at large group we had a speaker who talked a lot about her journey with anxiety. She talked about how God had to demolish her so he could heal her into who she needed to be.

“I got to a point in my life where I was telling God, ‘I’m already giving you my everything. And you want me to go deeper?’ I didn’t think it was worth it.”

And then she started having panic attacks. She described her panic attacks to be a result of being held to all these floaties her whole life as this perfect pastor’s kid. But then all the floaties were removed. God healed her from anxiety when she finally learned to become completely dependent on Jesus.

“There were points where I was just so broken. But I needed that. I needed God to lovingly break me down so I could become who I was really supposed to be. And it is so worth it. God is so worth it. And if you don’t think it is, do you know that God isn’t afraid of our questions? He takes whatever we have as worship. When we are angry and questioning, and we surrender that to God, he receives it still as worship. When we trust God with our deepest fears and emotions, he takes that as worship.”

The lights dimmed. “If you’re in this room and you struggle with anxiety, can you just raise your hand?”

I raised mine.

“Man. God sees you. There is freedom from that. Anyone here angry at God right now? Can you raise your hand too?”

The keys played softly in the background. “Yeah. Wow. God sees you too. And he is desperate to show you how good he is.”

When she finished speaking and all the worship time ended, I was about to cry.

“You alright?” Jess asked me.

“Yeah.” She waited for a second. I started crying.

“Maybe not.” She smiled and sat with me. And I cried practically the whole night. God was not done with me. If I was still crying every time something didn’t go my way, God needed me to go deeper. And I would have to go.

“Lea, it’s a process,” Ezequiel told me. “It’s okay if you don’t get it right away,” as though he knew. Lauren, Jess, and Ezequiel prayed for me.

“I got an image of a diamond,” Ezequiel said. “You are being handcrafted into who God wants you to be.”

“And diamonds are formed under pressure,” Lauren said.

I nodded, crying too hard to speak.

By the time I was finished crying, it was 10:30p.m and I had no desire to bike back home in the dark. So my small group leader took me home.

~

Yesterday I almost had a panic attack during lab because we left a compound on a heating plate and forgot about it so it completely burned. It was actually kind of funny because the room smelled burnt and it was so black. But none of our titrations were working and I was so dead and over it. So I took a step outside and didn’t allow the panic attack to manifest, and then went back in and finished the experiment.

During math discussion that day we got our tests back. I was looking for where I was docked points, but I could only find one question. This looks wrong. I turned to the front and added up all the sections. 97?

“Hey can you make sure I’m not crazy?” I asked a classmate. I took out my calculator and added it up.

“Oh yeah. That is totally not 82. That’s a 97.”

I showed it to my T.A. He stared at it for a few seconds.

“Oh. I’m so sorry! I have no idea how that happened!!” He went in and changed the grade for me.

“But also, I still think this one is right too,” I said, turning to the question I got wrong. He checked me work on that one too.

“Yeah. To me that’s right. You should ask the head T.A for a regrade. Send him an email with a picture,” he said, handing it back.

So I actually got a 97, maybe 100. I had been living a lie. I didn’t do anything wrong after all.

~

I’m currently writing this after a chemistry midterm in which a final grade of 35% usually gets curved to a C because chemistry at this school is so impossible. Class averages generally run around a 60% for this teacher though because he’s good. I had taken 11 practice tests total: 2 a day for the last week. Each one I had taken was ridiculously hard and had something that tripped me up. And the test I just walked out of was hard. But I finished. So many people asked me afterwards if I had finished, because they didn’t. Yeah, I actually did. That’s what happens when you do 10383919 problems that are extremely difficult. You get better and faster at them. You do grow. You do heal. And it is worth the journey.

Before the test, my roommate and I prayed together.

“God, we have studied our butts off for this. We have done our part. The rest is up to you. We give you all the glory in being able to bring you our best, because you don’t deserve any less. Our abilities come from you God. Our talents come from you. So God, do what only you can do.”

I don’t know how I did. But I did my best. And if it wasn’t enough, well it doesn’t have to be.

What God reveals, he heals. My anxiety spiral all was centered around a lie. I feel like I cried for nothing and this was all so dumb. But it’s funny how that one lie caused me to spiral out of control. It’s funny that lately my past struggles have been helping other people while I’ve been simultaneously falling deeper into healing from those same struggles. Because there are so many lies I still cling to sometimes, even though my journal is full of scriptures that I’ve been using to fight for my peace.

But I think God is still right when he wants us to keep going when we slip on the journey. That he wants to destroy the parts of us that are not meant to be so he can bring us home. My life might have been going a lot better than usual. But that didn’t mean he was done with me. That didn’t mean I was perfect. And if my emotional responses when things don’t go my way are still like that, then we still have a long way to go. Because that’s not living in freedom. And that’s not what God wants for me. Flesh is doing our thing our way to get our results. And I will still always be falling deeper and deeper into breaking that dependence on my self and allowing God to heal me.

And the journey is deep. But so is His love. And there will be weeks when maybe we let that one lie slip through— weeks like this when grace is so needed. For those weeks that grace is more abundant than we can fathom.

God, thank you for always making something new out of my ashes. Thank you for not being frustrated with me when I succumb to my emotions. But thank you for also delivering me from all these midterms. Thank you for accepting me as I am, all the time. And thank you for being worth going after, deeper and deeper. I don’t have to be worried about dealing with anxiety for the rest of my life, because if I will, you will be good through the whole process. I don’t have to be afraid of being weak because I know in those moments you will fight for me. Thank you for that. I trust you with the maelstrom of my heart. And I know that you are good. 💜

Gratitudes Upon Gratitudes.

As January comes to an end, my heart is just overflowing with gratitude and these lists never get old. So here is another list of things I’m so incredibly grateful for!!

~

  1. Worship, worship worship. And friends who let me worship with them. =)

 

2. I’m grateful that I attend college so close to home, and can stop by my house after church to restock on laundry detergent and jam with my girl, Xylia =)

3. I went to a conference last weekend called SALT where the Chi Alpha groups from every college campus get together and worship! It was so much fun.

4. My bullet journal!! Here’s a few snippets. =)

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5. My dance class. Last Thursday we practically did improv for the whole 2 hours, and it was so much fun.

6. I’m grateful that the process and the journey is where God begins to transform our lives. Breakthrough doesn’t always come right away, because God wants to change us in the process.

7. I’m grateful that when we put God first, everything else just falls into place.

8. On Wednesday I was biking when I saw a guy flip over his bike in the bike circle and land straight on his chin. I freaked out, parked my bike in the the yellow triangle that divides the bike path, and ran over to the guy. His chin and hand was bleeding like crazy. I was about to clean it with a napkin from my pocket and hand sanitizer, when I saw my friend Samra walk out of the Student Community Center who is also pre-med but a senior. I told her what happened and she walked into the SCC, came out with gloves, an astringent, and bandaids. She sat the student down and cleaned and bandaged all of his wounds. I was so thankful she was there! Now I carry a first aid kit in case it happens again.

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9. I’m grateful for whiteboards and whiteboard markers. This might sound so dumb, but studying with a whiteboard is so much more productive for me! I write everything I need to know all around the whiteboard and then erase one side and try to write it again by memory. Usually an hour later I have the whole board down by memory. This has changed my life, y’all!

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10. I’m grateful that I don’t have to be afraid of falling, because God is right there and is going to catch me if I fall.

11. I’m grateful that the willingness to step out, try new things, and be vulnerable is far more important than the end result.

12. I’m grateful that I took calculus in high school, because I would have no idea what is going on in my math class right now if I didn’t!

13. I’m grateful that I get to keep my home church, Jesus Culture, in college.

14. FaceTime calls with my friend Moriah from back home =)

15. That my brokenness is welcome here. But so is my joy, and my growth. And that I’m surrounded by people who love me too much to leave me where I am.

16. Friends that think it is a good idea to climb 15 flights of stairs to watch the sunset.

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17. That we have some very powerful tools to combat fear and anxiety in our lives like scripture, prayer, and worship.

18. I’m grateful that we can always sing a little louder and love a little deeper.

19. My new doctor! I had a doctor’s appointment the other day because I needed a vaccine, and my doctor has such a prodigal story. He came to Davis as a freshman and then dropped out! But then he got saved, and God told him to be a doctor. He’s been practicing medicine for 30 years now. I was so encouraged by him and he was definitely one of the kindest doctors I have ever met.

20. I’m grateful that the journey of praise is more important than the destination of healing.

21. I’m grateful that even in the days I am not able to set aside time to read the bible, every second of my day is still time spent with Him.

22. People that try to teach me bar chords at the ministry house.

23. That I might get to live in the ministry house next year, God willing! I had an interview to live in the Glory house and I find out this Thursday if I get to live there!

24. That I get to live a real, abundant life. Because the thief came to kill and destroy. But then Jesus came and changed everything.

25. My dance teacher. One day, she opened up to us about her dyslexia.

“Hey, I just wanted to tell you something real quickly,” I told her after class. She sat down to listen.

“I started dance when I was 12 and it was terrible. I was so insecure and awkward. I also noticed there isn’t a mirror in this room.”

“Yeah,” she said smiling.

“I think staring in front of a mirror for such a long time each day just encouraged comparison. I could never pick up choreography no matter what. I just couldn’t follow or remember it. It made no sense because I was doing fine in school. But my dance classes were centered around that, so they gave me anxiety. I felt like I could never do anything.

But it’s just so cool to be in a class like this one. Where it doesn’t even matter,” I said.

She nodded, smiling. “Wow. Well, it’s funny because you usually are the first one to pick things up here.”

“I am flexible. I can do stuff. But in combinations I could never put it together. Here, I’m not afraid of that, so I guess it works.”

“See what goes through your mind as you learn choreography. I’ve learned I just had to pick it up from a different part of my brain.”

She’s taught me that there are no real disabilites. When we struggle with something, it’s not because there’s something wrong with us. It’s just because our brains are all so unique and we all learn so differently. We just have to discover how to use what we were given.

“I’m taking this class because I had a rough first quarter and my academic advisor forced me to, I originally was so reluctant. I was like, ‘If I have to wear a leotard and my hair in a bun I am dropping it!'” She chuckled.

“But it turned out to be everything I needed. As someone with anxiety, this has been the best. It’s been teaching me to be present and more mindful.”

“What other classes are you taking?”

“Chemistry, Calculus for Biology and Medicine, Greek and Latin Word Roots, and a bullet journaling class,” I said, laughing. 17 units!

“Wow, I guess this is a good balance then.”

“It’s everything. I’m so grateful.”

“Well, I can see the joy when you dance. It’s so evident.”

I nodded and smiled. There’s so much I want to tell you. I finally found a dance environment where your brokenness was welcome. She emphasizes that. Through the self expression, the improv, and the emphasis on release and feeling, I was learning to breathe a little deeper. To be a little more present. To fall a little deeper into healing. To love more intentionally.

What an answered prayer, I thought as I biked back to my dorm, hands off the handlebars, full of awe and wonder.

~

That’s a wrap! This quarter has been different. So abundant. I’m still studying like ham every day, but there really is a peace behind it that I can’t explain. The ability to enjoy the work we get to do is a gift from God. So I’m going to go back to studying for my next midterm, but you can bet I’ll be raising a hallelujah through it all.

 

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little moments.

I began the journey of year 1, quarter 2 this week. This a moment a day of my life for a week. 🙂

~

Monday, 1/7/19

What God reveals, he heals.

After my 8 a.m. chem lecture, I walked into my first freshman seminar: Intro to Reflective and Creative Journaling. It was a one unit, pass/no-pass class with 15 people sitting around a table. It’s very hard to feel like a human in a lecture hall of 500 people, which is the majority of my classes. So this one intrigued me greatly.

We went around the room and said introductions. Practically all of us in the class were taking it to get our lives together this quarter. The professor, Teresa, was young and sweet. Almost every time a classmate mentioned their hometown, she had a story to tell about a time she used to live there. Until we got to one person.

“I’m from New Jersey,” she said.

“Okay haven’t lived there.” Everyone started laughing. “But that’s super cool!”

She went over the syllabus and then talked about herself a little more.

“I want you guys to consider me someone that you can talk to. I don’t know everything, but I can do my best to point you in the right direction. I can help you find tutors and resources and whatever you need. The quarter system is rough. There’s nothing wrong with you guys. It’s the system that isn’t normal. So if things get overwhelming, please come talk to me. College in general is rough. I did my undergrad here, so I’m speaking from experience and know what you guys are going through.”

“I’m really passionate about journaling especially in this new year! My goal is to help you guys achieve a work life balance through journaling while trying new things and having a lot of fun. And I’ll be bringing you guys journals, pens, and washi tape. I buy all that fun stuff with my grad money so everybody wins.”

God’s been revealing to me that I have a junk drawer full of thought patterns I need to get rid of.

I looked around me. We were all imperfect, hoping this class would help us organize our lives in some way. Maybe it was also the perfect opportunity to learn healthier thought patterns. Maybe this was exactly what I needed to heal.

~

Spending time with the Lord.

I brought Ukie (I named my Ukulele Ukie, judge me all you want), to college because he’s small and played him almost every morning. Afterwards I would open my bible and see wherever it took me, and journal relentlessly all of my thoughts and questions.

On Monday God brought me to Romans 5:3 “and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. And we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverence, character, and hope.” 

I went on to read Romans 8, which talked about how the mind of a sinful man is death. This is very encouraging. But then it said, “…but the mind of the spirit is life and peace… You are not controlled by the sinful nature but by the spirit, if the spirit of God lives in you. For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave to fear, but you received the spirit of sonship.”

Okay, God. That was actually pretty good.  

The next day I found myself in 1 Corinthians 24, which was about running the race set before us for the crown that will last forever. The day after that I found myself in Ecclesiastes, drawn to the truth that the satisfaction from doing work under the sun comes from Him and Him alone. That whole book highlighted to me that it was meaningless to do anything not out of a heart of worship.

So I found myself relentlessly clinging to everything I read each day, because there was no point in doing anything if it was out of the wrong place. I prayed that I would stay grounded and continue to keep my priorities straight throughout the week. I want to know you Lord. I want to hear your voice. I want to see what you see. I want to hear what you hear.

And I found myself more content and motivated to study than I ever had before.

~

Tuesday, 1/8/19

“I want you guys to breathe deeper. Look around, acknowledge the beauty of the space. Close your eyes. Feel the weight of your feet shift forward and backwards…” Tara, my dance instructor said, as we stood in a circle, allowing our minds to clear.

This class was called Intro to Contemporary Dance. In my opinion, it should’ve been called, “Mindfullness, Movement, and Self Care 101, Rolling on the Floor Like A Log and Making Art Edition.” This class was 4 units and didn’t count for anything I needed to graduate, but oh well. My academic advisor made me take it, and I guess I really needed it.

She urged us to feel the floor. To welcome the presence of one another. The only way to accept one another was to also accept ourselves. She emphasized the creation of a safe space, where we were all aware of our own needs and the needs of those around us. My two instructors were both so gentle and their presence made my heart melt.

The first exercise we did was called the leaning exercise. We each grabbed a partner and had to stand next to each other side by side, slowly shifting our weight on the other. Tara and Nicole demonstrated. As they shifted more weight on the other, they checked in with each other to make sure both of their needs were being met and that they both felt safe. It was a mindfullness exercise, designed to make you aware of your surroundings, your needs, and your partner’s. You were both supposed to support each other in a mutual and cooperative fashion.

As my partner and I did it, we saw a Turkey outside the glass window.

“Turkey!” I exclaimed, completely breaking the transcendent, calm, atmosphere. We spent the rest of the exercise concentrating on how its head was bobbing back and forth and laughing, instead of taking deep breaths and being calm. This is why I can’t do yoga.

The point is, I’m not the best mindfullness role model. I am a pretty high-anxiety human who is extremely hyper and is always in a rush. But I’m excited to grow in this. You can’t become good at something if you don’t try. Even if I’m not calm, I desire a spirit that is calm. This exercise brought awareness to how intricate sensory details are, and how being aware of their beauty allows you to be more in touch with who you are. This class would challenge me to slow down for the sake of my own soul.

And then we did another exercise. Nicole laid on the floor while Tara picked up her ankle, and gently pulled it sideways until her whole body flopped over. She did this with both arms as well. Everyone agreed that this exercise was so relaxing. To simply allow yourself to be carried by the movement of one part of the body demonstrated the power and freedom of letting go of control. This mimicked the feeling of a roll, as when we would roll like logs across the floor, we would allow one part of our body to do all the work and keep everything else heavy.

Isn’t that like God though? He’s the one that holds us, and when he moves ever so slightly, we just follow. And it’s so freeing to let go and allow him to just roll us wherever we need to be.

I’m obsessed with this class. This will all be so uncomfortable for me, but I’m excited.

Wednesday, 1/9/19

I had an hour between math and chem discussion, so I biked to the DCF house, grabbed the guitar, and went up to the prayer room. The guitar was missing a string on the bottom, which I appreciated, because it made it far easier to play and far less painful for the girl who has been playing for a little over 2 weeks.

40 minutes later, my spirit was renewed, and heart was re-centered on worship again. Sometimes the short moments that don’t seem extravagant end up being some of the most important ones.

~

Thursday, 1/10/19

I got to meet with Michela, my small group leader today. I met her right after my math discussion and we just sat down and talked. I told her about all the encounters I’ve had since break and all the changes I’ve been trying to make. I don’t know how to capture conversations. They are just too amazing.

An hour later, we both prayed. I went first.

“God, I just thank you that I’ve gotten to see Lea grow since the beginning of this year. I thank you for continuing to transform her mind. I pray she would keep having the encounters she does, and she would keep looking for you in everything she does…” Michela started.

I love her so much.

~

Friday, 1/11/19

A shooting had happened last night in Downtown Davis shortly after I met with Michela. I was able to get back to my dorm before the shelter in place, thankfully. I won’t get into the details, but it was devastating.

So today Will, Madeline, and Camille were taking leftover pizza and Chick-fil A from the lunch they hosted around campus and giving it out for free in an effort to bring some joy back to the campus. I ran into them after my math lecture just trying to love on people.

“Can I join?”

“Of course!”

So I carried the DCF cards as we went up to random people and handed out free food. We got to tell people about who we were and show others that they were loved. We had a wheel that people could spin but it didn’t really matter what number it landed on because we just gave everybody what they wanted. Pastor Will just knew exactly what to say to everyone to make them smile.

And that was a wrap to my first week back in college. Despite taking a 17-unit course load and being slightly overwhelmed in the beginning, all of these things happened too. I love all my classes, even my academic ones. In everything I do, I get to do it for the One. I can’t capture how amazing being back has been with justice, but just take my word for it. Week 1 has left my heart so full.

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Reaching Out

On Tuesday, I went running and saw a dog. It was white and tiny with super curly hair, and it was just chilling in the grass and marking it’s territory. I stopped and started petting the random dog. It came straight to me and sat down, smiling with its tongue out as I continued to pet it.

It turned out to belong to one of my friend’s neighbors. She was looking for him because she had let him out earlier, and happened to find me petting it.

We knew each other but not really.

“Hey! You go to Davis right?” She asked me.

“Yeah! Sorry for petting your dog,” I said.

“No, it’s totally fine!”

We started talking. Slowly, she began to unravel with me what had been going on in her life. She had transferred schools every year of high school as she couldn’t find a school where she felt she fit in, and was now in her senior year at yet another new school. Last year she attended the same high school as me, and I had sort of known her because I had graded some of her papers when I was a T.A. But she continued to share with me what was going on underneath the numbers. She opened up about her harsh parents, but mostly how her mom would yell at her and sometimes hit her. She told me she wasn’t really trying in school anymore and was unsure of she wanted to do. She opened up about having to see a therapist, but then went on to explain how her therapist avoided her problems and made her feel like a burden. She felt like her therapist wanted to just put her on meds and get rid of her. She had recently stopped seeing that therapist, thank God, but still felt like there was something wrong with her. And as she continued to share her life with me, my heart just broke.

Chowder, the dog, was shivering so she picked him up and we walked around the neighborhood and continued talking. She played ice hockey at the ice rink I used to figure skate at. She felt alone and like everyone was giving up on her. Her pets were the one thing that kept her happy. I was at a loss for words, so I shared my testimony with her. I told her that I used to be broken and I used to try to put my self worth in so many things, but then God transformed my life in ways I never even knew possible. I told her about my healing high school experience, the community I found in college, and the miracles that happen to me all the time. She was open to it.

“You are so loved,” I stressed the whole way. “And I believe in a God who is always just dying to show us how much He loves us. When we work from a place of knowing how much we are worth, life is just so much more meaningful.”

I walked her back to her house where she showed me her chinchilla (it was so freaking cute omg). She let me feed it and my heart just exploded in happiness. About an hour and a half had passed since I had left the house to go for a run.

“Hey, I should probably head home now, but can I pray for you before I go?”

“Yeah!”

So under the evening sky, I laid a hand on her shoulder and began to pray. “God, I really believe it was no accident that we met today. I pray that you would reveal to her that she is so loved. That there is so much more worth living for than what she thinks. That you want to heal her and take away her pain. That the plans you have for her are more than she could ever dream possible. God, I just pray if there are any fears in her heart right now that you would just replace them with peace. I pray she would feel your presence right here, right now. That you would meet her right here where she is at, and meet all of her needs.”

“Amen.” We both looked up.

“Wow. Thank you. You should talk to one of my Christian friends. You would be a great role model for her,” she said.

I smiled. “Thank you for letting me pray for you. So glad I ran into you today.”

I ran home and texted her my therapists’ info as I had promised. To follow up I said, “If you ever need anything, I’m here. Keep fighting until you find something beautiful and worth living for.”

But I text a lot of people that, hoping they will text me when something happens. I didn’t think she would actually reach out to me.

~

The next day I met with the teacher I T.Aed for first semester of senior year for coffee and we catched up on what God had been doing in our lives. Later that evening, I got dinner with a bunch of my high school friends and seeing them made me so happy. I was taking my friend Bri home when I missed her house. We wanted to talk more anyways, so I just kept driving in circles until we had sufficiently caught up on life. We had both grown so much since we graduated.

Around 10:30p.m, I got a text from the girl I ran into the previous day asking me if I was still up. I was just about to leave Bri’s house.

“Yeah, I’m at a friend’s house but I’m coming home now. What’s up?”

“Can I stay at your place tonight? I’ll pay you and leave the next thing.”

My heart skipped a beat. I called her.

“Hey. What’s going on?”

“I’m scared my mom is going to kick me out of the house,” she said, distraught. “So I left before she could kick me out.”

“Where are you right now?”

“Just in the neighborhood.”

I paused for a second, trying to gather my thoughts.

“I don’t know what to do. I’m going to get home, and then can I call you again?’

“Yeah.”

“Okay cool. Hang tight.”

I was scared. So once I knew where I was on the road again, I asked Siri to call my dad.

“Hello?” he answered.

“Hi. First, I know it’s kind of late so I’m just letting you know that I’m on my way home and I’m not dead. Second, one of my friends is in a crisis and asked me if she could stay at our house.” I explained the situation a little bit more.

“Well, I think if she doesn’t go home that’s going to cause even more problems. I think you should try to convince her to go back home. If she really can’t, I don’t care if she stays at our house. But that’s like kidnapping her, if her parents don’t know.”

“I think so too. She said she’s on the street, so I was going to pick her up and talk to her more for now.”

“Sounds good. Text me if you need anything.” He hangs up. Thanks, dad.

When I got home, I called her again and asked her where she was. I drove around my neighborhood until I found her. She was sitting on the sidewalk corner behind a big truck.

I rolled down my window. “Hey girl. Get in my car.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes. I’m not leaving you here.” She had 2 suitcases and a backpack and I could tell she had been crying. It was pretty cold outside as well.

“This is what we’re going to do. We’re gonna talk about this until we figure out what the best thing to do is. But I’m not leaving you until we do.”

More stories unravel about her mom kicking her out before. She had gotten a speeding ticket the other day, and her dad yelled at her like crazy so she was afraid her mom would kick her out again.

“What is going through your head right this instant?” I asked, as we drove around and talked.

“I’m just really scared of my mom,” she said, anxiously.

My dad ended up coming in the car with me because I wasn’t sure what to do. I told her my dad was cool and would stand up for her. He talked to her gently, telling her a story about his cousin who ran away from home once, and the beautiful life she has now. He assured her that her parents loved her, that maybe sometimes their actions didn’t come off that way, but that they were probably worried about her. Yes, that speeding ticket wasn’t the best decision in the world, but she had the power to move on from that. He even offered to pay for it if her parents had a problem with the cost.

I drove up to her house and my dad went in first. He wanted to talk to her parents. They weren’t home, so he ended up talking to her brother instead. Her brother didn’t know she was on the street, and thought she was just hanging out with friends or something.  We talked to both of them for a little bit longer, telling her that she is welcome to stay the night at our house but only if her parents know that she is there. She ended up deciding to stay home. Her brother helped her take her suitcases out of my car and then we hugged and parted ways.

I thanked my dad when we got home. I wouldn’t have been able to handle that one on my own. I was super thankful she called me, but have been still trying to figure out how I’m supposed to love people in the best way possible. My dad, as a parent, knew what to say this time. And he was beginning to realize that I have a lot of encounters like this with people.

“These things seem to happen to you all the time. Maybe it is your calling,” he said.

~

I texted her that night, telling her I was so thankful she reached out to me and reminded her that she may not have gotten to choose her parents or her circumstances, but she does get to choose what she makes of them and that none of her past decisions have to define her. I reminded her that she was loved.

As I continued to meet with mentors and friends this week, I couldn’t help but stress that none of that would’ve happened if I didn’t pet that dog. People judge my need to pet every dog I see on the street so hard! I’m serious. But look at that. God uses everything. I’ve been continuously checking in with her these last few days. And I’m going to keep praying for her, believing that it was no accident that I pet her dog, and no accident that we met. Encounters like this are what I am just so passionate about. I believe in healing and restoration. And I believe those things start when we reach out with an open, intentional heart.

I reach out and then you find me in the dust

You say no amount of untruth, could ever separate us…

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How I Spend Time With God

Intentional. That has been the word on my heart for the last few weeks. There are some intentional people in my life that always ask me, “How are you?” I usually answer with an adjective, and maybe some anecdotes about my crazy, abundant life. I think that I give a good answer or at least a better one than the classic and many times fake, “I’m doing well.” But then they ask, “How’s your soul doing?” And follow it up with, “How’s your time with the Lord been?” Those questions are easy to dodge with a one word answer. But then they say, “What has He been speaking to you lately?” And every time someone asks me that question, my heart just melts because I can’t believe God put people in my life that care about the condition of my heart and soul. It’s not a question the average person asks, and it always shifts my perspective back to Jesus.

These people have inspired me to live a lot more intentionally. My main goal of 2019 is simply to put God before everything. I want my time with God to be congruent with the time I spend doing every day tasks. What we do with the talents we’ve been given is our gift back to the Lord. We’ve all been created with such unique gifts, so the way I spend time with God is going to look different from the way you spend time with God. Spending time with the Lord shouldn’t feel like some tedious routine that you have to do, because that’s religion. We are called to work from a place of rest and worship, and give God the glory in everything we do because we love Him. It takes time. There’s no rush. We’re not in a hurry when it comes to His presence or voice, and the more we press in and desire to hear it, the more evident it becomes.

So I’ve been trying to spend as much time with the Lord as possible these last few weeks before I have to go back to college! Since it is so important, I wanted to briefly share what time with the Lord looks like for me. 🙂

~

Worship music. I am so obsessed with worship music and find myself spending more time praising God through it than any other way. This is my easy way. I am a worship leader after all and am always looking up chords, learning them on the piano, and singing my heart out. To spice things up a bit, some friends in college inspired me to take up learning the guitar. So I took the guitar that’s been lying around my house, tuned it and claimed it as my own. It has been so much fun learning to play worship songs on it, and though my fingers hurt so much I am very happy with the extent of songs I can play (since many worship songs are the same 4 chords). Another friend inspired me to take up the ukulele claiming it hurt less than the guitar, so I got one for Christmas and have been learning that as well. Being able to worship in all these different ways brings me so much joy.

I play worship music while I’m driving, cleaning, showering, running, studying (really need to stop doing that), or sometimes I just have a song on my heart that I want to sing, so I play it, allow the music to fill the room, and lift my hands. Sometimes I play worship music and have an improv dance session around the house and allow the words to flow throughout my body. Sometimes I sit and listen, and sometimes I belt the words as loud as I can. It just depends on what’s on my heart and what my soul is longing to do. When I go running, many times I stop on the trail to lift my hands during a song and simply take in the beauty of this earth. Many times I stop to dance. I’m learning that there is no right way to be aware of the presence of the Lord.

I pray. I pray very imperfect and honest prayers throughout my day. I pray the, “please save me from this test,” and “take all my pain away” prayers a lot in the moment. I’m human. But an intentional prayer for me is anytime I take a step back and acknowledge that I need God with me in the battle throughout the day. Sometimes I stumble upon random pieces of scripture that speak to me. If I’m praying and someone pops into my head, I’ll usually pray for that person and then text them the verse or word of encouragement. So many times people text me back saying they were just thinking of me or that they really needed it, and it blows my mind so I keep doing it. I’m always praying for healing, strength, courage, and peace. I pray for wisdom and the courage to be grateful.

I pray for God to reveal my heart posture to me. I want to know if my relationship with the Lord is being fueled by anything other than love. I want to know what I’m truly anxious about and where those anxieties are coming from. I ask God if I’m striving. The answer is usually yes. And then I ask for grace upon grace.

Sometimes I pray in tongues. They call it a heavenly and personal prayer language. I received it after praying for it for so long, and the whole concept is still crazy and new to me. I don’t know how I’m supposed to be using tongues yet, but when it’s on my heart to pray in tongues I will.

I read the Bible. This is the one I’m the worst at, but it’s so important and I’ve been noticing how much my heart just craves to read it. When I read the Bible, I have no plan. I just open it, trusting that I’m going to turn to whatever I need to see in that moment. I was telling Ezequiel one day about the lies go through my head. And he asked me, “Where in scripture can you prove that they’re lies?” That question has been one that I am always trying to answer as I try to navigate my way through the waters of college.

I also write stuff. I got a word once about how God speaks to me through my writing, and it was so spot on. Writing always helps me find my way back to the Lord and brings me closer to Him in general. At this point in time, my blog has become my journal. It’s raw, real, and so imperfect, and it captures all the time I spend wrestling and struggling along with all of my breakthroughs. I have many revelations writing as it points me back to Jesus.

And I spend time with people. I always feel like I need to figure out how to heal on my own by spending more time alone with God. While that is important, I’m learning that the people in my life have been the reason why my faith skyrocketed this quarter. I struggled, healed, and grew so much. God gives us community to highlight how much He loves us, and He speaks through others all the time. We were designed to be codependent, and where two or more gather in His name, He is there. My time with the Lord is time I spend in small group, large group, and church. These are the places I ask all my questions and they keep me from doing my walk with God alone. I love retreats, conferences, and worship nights. You don’t have to go to those to hear from God, but I tend to find myself at these kind of things a lot simply because I love them. I experience a lot of spiritual highs, not because I chase them, but because God likes to meet me in pretty unreal ways.

And because so many people pour into me, I try to pour into others. I got to take one of my girls for an adventure downtown and another one of my girls ice skating. I’m growing into this mentor thing. There are people in my life that just carry a presence that makes them so easy to be vulnerable with, and I’m still trying to figure out how I can be as amazing as my mentors for my girls while still being me. But it made me so happy to get to ask them, “How has your walk with the Lord been? And what has he been speaking to you?” Because their souls are so important. And I love them so much.

So how has your walk with the Lord been? And what has he been speaking to you?Happy New Years!!! 💗

Falling.

This past week I’ve been leading worship, spending time with my family, spending time with the Lord, going on runs, teaching myself how to play the guitar, driving around rich neighborhoods to admire Christmas lights, buying people Christmas presents, working out, ice skating, catching up on sleep, watching The Good Doctor and New Amsterdam, and eating sushi late at night. Every day of break I spend at home, I heal a little bit more from the academic wilderness that beat me up in my first quarter of college. Basically, I have 2 weeks to figure out how I am supposed to find the strength to go back.

Yesterday, I went ice skating for the first time in about 3 years. I didn’t lose as much I thought. I could still land my axel and a split jump. I could still do a one foot spin. It was pure joy to simply be back on the ice, and it brought back so many memories from when I was 13 years old and skating was my everything.

These 2 girls asked me if I could take a picture for them. Afterwards, one of them tried to step forward, slipped, and let out a little shriek. She freaked out, laughing as she tried to gain her balance. After she was standing again, she asked me, laughing, “How do you do this?” And she pointed at my skates.

“Heel to toe!” I said, laughing. I demonstrated the movement slowly. “Or you can just shuffle.”

She tried, lost balance, and then grabbed the wall laughing. “I just can’t!” She said.

“Here, I got you. I’ll take you around.” I turned around and held out my hands. I skated backwards with her hands in mine, as she continued to scream, struggle, snd laugh while her best friend laughed with her and tried to hold her as well.

“How long did it take you to get so good?” She asked me.

“I skated for about 2 years and then I quit,” I said. “But, we all start exactly the way you are. It’s totally okay.”

“Wow,” She said, in disbelief.

“You can’t be afraid to fall!” I told her, laughing. “You got this!”

Figure skating is one of the most freeing sports of all time. But trying to move on slippery ice with blades under your feet is quite the scary concept. Falling is just part of the sport. If you ever go ice skating, even if you aren’t trying to do anything extravagant, you will probably wake up the next day with your entire lower body hurting from stretching all your muscles. That’s also just part of it. When I was 13, I figured out that the only way to truly skate was to not be afraid of falling. Not because figure skaters are invincible, but because we were so used to it. We would say, “Fall seven times stand up eight.” Getting up after a fall was simply what we did.

But let’s face it. The reality is that we are human and do not want to fall. So we use the jump harness. Or hold back. I can’t tell you how many times yesterday I prepped for a jump or spin and didn’t follow through because I was afraid of falling. But the second the jump harness comes off, you’re back on the ice. And somehow you have to find the courage to try that jump that you have never landed before again. You probably had some really hard falls from attempting that jump. The thought of landing sounds scary because you don’t know what it’s going to feel like. You have no idea if you are doing it right. And the only way to learn is to try. A lot of times, you finally muster up the courage to try again, and you fall for the millionth time. Hard. But you get up again and again. Eventually, you land it. But landing it once doesn’t make you invincible from face planting on that same skill. What matters is not how many times you succeed or fall. What matters is that you keep getting up. Skating, like everything, is more of a mental battle than a physical one.

And what keeps a figure skater going is love. The adrenaline and rush is so special. The sound of landing a jump is so crisp, clean, and satisfying. If you are okay with falling, you get to try all these cool things that are so incredibly scary, and the whole journey of learning and messing up is just so much fun.

I was thinking about this because I finished the quarter with an A-, B, and a C. I finished with the whole alphabet. On one hand, I am grateful I passed everything. On the other hand, I am frustrated because I worked so hard. My grades do not reflect that I am a good student, and good students are supposed to get good grades. I tried and I fell. It’s my first quarter. I am learning so much. But even though I fell, it was still a step forward. No fall is ever a step back.

And if you aren’t falling, are you really living vulnerably? Are you really living the most meaningful life you could be living? Are you sure that you are growing? Because the people I look up to are not people that have never failed, but people who pressed on anyways.

“I had an exam to get my master’s the other day,” Anna told me. “God told me to spend time with him instead of study. So I listened, and I didn’t study at all. And I went into that test telling God it would be a miracle if I passed because I didn’t study. I had failed it once before. And, I passed. So I don’t know. I hope that encourages you,” she said.

I met another girl at church, Katie, who told me that her first semester of college was bad. She was frustrated because she had to drop a class and wondered if she would make it. But then she found a passion for Sociology and got into a prestigious social work problem later on, and is now going to graduate school to maybe go into counseling, like Anna (who is a therapist).

And then I thought of my math tutor, Ezequiel, who had said sort of the same thing. He came to UC Davis as a freshman but ended up having to go back to community college because he was living a broken life and was on academic probation. But one day the Lord set him free, and told him to major in math. He transferred to Davis this year as a junior. He told me that he was studying for a test that his professor told them nobody would pass. While he was studying, God told him to stop. So he stopped. During the test, he asked God to illuminate each problem for him. He ended up getting over 100%.

So, how do you have the strength to get up when you fall?

~

Anna asked if she could pray over me before I left. She asked some of her friends to join her. She prayed that I would be working from a place of rest and worship. She prayed for strength and peace to keep going in the midst of hardship.

When she finished, one of her friends touched my shoulder.

“Hey, I just had a quick word for you before you go,” he said.

“Go for it.”

“I feel like there was a time in your life when you didn’t know who you were. And then a bunch of women surrounded you and prayed over you, and they broke off all the lies you were believing about yourself. And I just feel the Lord trying to tell you that you blossom wherever you go. That’s just who you are. I just see you blossoming in every aspect of your life.”

“Wow,” I said. “God gave you that?”

“Yep.”

“What’s your name?”

“Brandon,” he said, smiling.

“I’m Lea,” I shook his hand. “There was a point in college when I was just striving, and a bunch of women did surround me and break off all the lies I was believing about myself. But the journey didn’t end there.”

He smiled. “Lea, just hold out your hands. Just like that.”

I held them out in front of me.

“Just say, ‘God, thank you for understanding me. Thank you for loving me. ‘” I nodded.

“Say it,” he urged, gently.

“Thank you for understanding me. Thank you for loving me,” I repeated.

“I trust that you want what’s best for me,” he said.

“I trust that you want what’s best for me.”

“And I trust that you’re going to go there with me,” he said.

“I trust that you’re going to go there with me,” I repeated.

Winning the battle doesn’t depend on how great you are on the battlefield. It doesn’t depend on how many times you fall. It doesn’t depend on how hard those falls are or how broken you think you are. It doesn’t depend on how much more talented everyone else around you seems to be. You just have to love the Lord so much that you can’t help but want to surrender.

Christianity is not about behavior modification, but heart transformation. Falling deeper in love, learning, and healing is all about surrender. Love is the only way to get up after a hard fall. Love is the only way to have joy in the midst of the journey. And it doesn’t matter how many times you fall, because Jesus already paid the price for each one. Jesus already paid the price for everything we could possibly screw up on this earth. He did this so we could live unafraid to fall. He didn’t make us invincible from falling, but he paid the price so we could still be connected to Him, so we could experience real life. A real life that is full of ups and downs and beautiful, sappy moments. He did it out of love so we could experience the true joy of love.

So lift your hands. Close your eyes. Sing it out. Begin to lean closer and closer to Him. The strength to keep going doesn’t come from you. You can try to figure out how to run faster and be better or whatnot. Or you can simply fall, and fall into his arms. The second you surrender, God is in the battle. Do you know that he has equipped you uniquely for all the battles you will face? Do you know that questioning your ability to make it is completely normal if God is calling you to things that have never been done before? And God will win all your battles because He knows what is best for you and wants so badly to give you the desires of your heart. He’s after your heart, not your performance. He wants to take away your pain, the pain from falling, but not your joy.

“That’s all you gotta do,” he said.

Merry Christmas guys!! 💗

Striving vs. Excellence

“Even though college has been really hard, I’m so grateful that I get to go to Davis. I’ve experienced too many blessings to count,” I had told my therapist, after a long exploration of the thoughts I’d been encountering since the beginning of college.

“Yeah. But can you think of something to be grateful for when you are sitting on the staircase crying?” She asked me.

“I am actually so grateful that I cried on that staircase,” I had said. Those tears led to rolling into my friend’s small group, to the word Ysabel gave me, to the breakdown, to calling Michela, to Fall Retreat, and to my academic advisor intervening. And the stairwell in my dorm has officially become my secret place. Looking back, of all the beautiful places there are on campus, I have my greatest revelations in that cold, grey and gloomy space. 

It was an ironic question, because in the last 3 weeks of the quarter, I found myself on the stairwell a lot. The second day back from the Thanksgiving break we weren’t supposed to have (because of the California fires), I found myself holding another inadequate test score, succumbing to another wave of extreme frustration, wondering how I did so badly on a test I thought was so easy. Another wave of relentless, all-too familiar thoughts attacked, telling me that I wasn’t good enough, smart enough, or strong enough, followed by judging myself for how terrible I was at handling failure and my emotions. At first, I told myself it’s okay. Your whole friend group did better than you even though you studied like crazy and went to office hours and actually thought you knew stuff. But you can’t change what happened, so now you need to study really hard for your bio midterm and last math midterm to make up for it. And I sat down and opened my laptop, tired from an already extremely busy day, ready to take the 79.8%, stuff the emotion down and move on. 

And then I stopped myself. 

My heart posture had changed. My first instinct to cope with failure was to begin striving again. And remembering where the last striving cycle left me, I closed my laptop, texted my friend Danielle and my youth leader Britt from back home, and instead tried to spend some time with God. My thoughts didn’t allow that to happen. I tried to find something to be grateful for, but I could only think about the midterm I had the following day and the other one I had at the end of the week and how I should be studying instead of going through the motions about something I couldn’t control.

So I found myself on the stairwell, freaking out, on the edge of a striving relapse. I was crying on the staircase and I couldn’t find something to be grateful for. Danielle called me shortly after I texted her. 

“Lea, If you want to fight this battle, fight. Don’t let the enemy walk all over you like this. You are trying to climb this mountain with a backpack full of bricks. God doesn’t promise that there won’t be a mountain, but he does call us to climb the mountain with our hands wide open.”

“Every time a thought comes into your head that says you’re not smart enough, you need to take that thought and hold it captive before it takes a hold of you. I know you’ve been trying to do this already, but maybe instead of asking God what he says about you, just thank God for what he says about you. You already know what He says about you. When you don’t feel smart enough, thank God for the beautiful mind He gave you. When you don’t feel strong enough, thank God for always giving you the strength you need to fight your battles.”

After she prayed for me, something clicked. A string formed between memories of all the things people had me declare over myself, to the self-compassion I had been trying to learn, to the promises gratitude releases that I know and have experienced before. Gratitude is the opposite of scarcity. Gratitude points back to Jesus. Suddenly, that verse about taking every thought captive and making it obedient to Christ that is somewhere in 2nd Corinthians made sense. I grabbed my journal and filled the page with declarations, and with my flashlight under my covers thanked God for every single thing on that list before I went to sleep. 

And it didn’t change my circumstances but it changed everything. Throughout my impossible bio midterm, I found myself thanking God that it would never define me or hinder my future. Thank you God that I have a beautiful mind. Thank you God that I am enough. The next day my allergies were bad and I felt super under the weather, but I kept thanking God for giving me the strength to do everything. Thank you God for giving me a body that is capable of healing itself. I took the fattest nap I’d ever taken and woke up so well rested, but was tempted to be angry at myself for sleeping when I should’ve been studying. Instead, I thanked God for giving me rest. 

Then, I left my phone in one of the farthest lecture halls from my dorm after the math review session from 8-10p.m. I was about to bike in the pouring rain to go fetch it at 11p.m, but my small group leader, Michela, who lives closer to that hall took her housemates on a mission where they convinced the janitors to let them in, found my phone, and then drove it up to my dorm for me. I began to notice that the days I feel the most loved are the ones where I screw up the most. 

Danielle checked in with me a few days later and I told her all of this. “I think I just needed to be reminded what it means to fight the battle. Because these next few weeks are going to suck so badly but also be so amazing, and they’re not going to get to me, you know? We’re able to thank God for things before they happen because the battle has already been won.”

“YESS LEA! PREACH. You’re going to make me cry!” She replied, passionately. 

She texted me 1st Thessalonians 5:16: “In everything we give thanks, for this is the will of God for your life.” When we claim that truth, we can begin to see things differently. 

So I’ve been training my mind to resort to gratitude rather than all the unsustainable, intrusive, trash it’s been resorting to for so long. I am learning to sing praise before my breakthrough until my song becomes my triumph.

It’s not easy. Some days my thoughts are so intrusive it feels hopeless to even try. There are days where the words of gratitude I am declaring over myself sound so cheesy and fake. Some days I fall into the trap of comparison. Some days my brain is so fried it seems far easier to accept the lie that I can’t do anything right. On those days, I don’t pray for God to take away the mountain, but I ask Him to help me love the journey of climbing. I don’t pray for God to take away my anxiety anymore, but I do declare that it has no power over me. Because the days where life feels like a series of letdowns that happen one after the other are the days where we have all the more reason to say “thank you.” Thank you God for surrounding me when I’m surrounded. Thank you God for doing all the heavy lifting. Thank you for making me a survivor when I was a victim. Thank you for giving me the power to change my perspective. And thank you for loving me through it all. 

Some days I sit on the stairwell thanking God for giving me peace when I feel the most anxious. Some days I am so happy, until I find out I did worse than the entire class on something, and I find myself trying to give thanks through my tears. Other days I sit on the stairwell thanking God for giving me strength when I feel the most depleted. Many days I am so tempted to scream at the world in anger, “I’m just not smart. I don’t know how to take these tests. Even my roommate is complaining about how screwed she is when I always do worse than her. I might actually fail this class. I’m not overreacting. Do you not understand?” And on those days I am on the phone with my youth leader Britt from back home, closing my eyes with my hands held open in front of me as she prays for God to meet me right where I am, in the storm of my head, in my dorm room stairwell. When I’m too consumed in my head to thank God for anything, I thank God for giving me people that let the light in my storm. I thank God for people who pick me up when I fail and tell me that yeah, you did really bad there. But you were brave. I’m not disappointed in you. In fact, I’m proud of you for reaching out. I’m proud of you for your heart. Keep going. I believe in you. And know I’m always right here when you fall. 

I thank God for the little moments. One day I went to see my Sociology TA, Tanaya, at 3 because I couldn’t make her office hours. She checked my thesis, answered my questions, and then walked to class with me because class started at 4. She was leaving for India in a few days, and we talked the whole way. She thanked me for walking with her, told me to email her if I needed anything, and then wished me all the best once we arrived at lecture. Thank you God one of my TAs knows me by name when none of my professors do. On the last day of bio, they did a review session for the final and my professors wanted a volunteer to help design an experiment with the class. None of the other 500 people in my class wanted to go, so I volunteered willingly, galloped up there and asked my professor, “What am I doing again?” The stoic class finally erupted in laughter. She wanted me to test whether the presence of one species inhibited the growth of the other. I drew two boxes and labeled them with each treatment. She asked the class how we could incorporate a temperature factor. Crickets. Nobody raised their hand. So I said, “fire”. I was holding her mic too. I drew two correct graphs before I ran off the stage, I promise. Thank you God that even if I fail this class, at least my professors will remember me as the girl who wanted to set her experiment on fire. 

And finals week definitely sucked. I blasted “Prince of Peace” by Hillsong in my ears as I re-wrote notes, created study sheets, and crunched numbers. My roommate and I had movie nights re-watching lectures about nutrient cycles and memorized evolution time periods for hours. But it was also amazing, because I was learning to take care of myself. I went to the gym every day to clear my mind between the a.m-p.m study grinds and fueled my body well. I was learning to be grateful in the storm, or find a diamond in the desert.

And I’m expecting my final grades to not be so hot. My first quarter GPA will probably be trash. This is very hard for me to swallow, and will be even harder for people back at home who thought I was smart to swallow. And can I just say that if you thought I was better than that or you think I shouldn’t be failing then you are really missing the point? Because I’ve spent my whole life trying to prove I was smart enough, only to find that even when I managed to pull a 4.6 GPA first semester of senior year that I still wasn’t “smart”. Smart doesn’t exist. I could chase it all my life, and I would never arrive. And can I just say that I’ve never been happier? Not because I’m proud of my grades but because I’m healthy, I survived my first quarter, and I am content with the intelligence I have. I’m not settling for mediocre grades, failure, or complacency by any means. This isn’t the end. But I am saying I can have joy when my best is mediocre. And after a whole life-time of wondering when my best would ever be enough, I understand now why it is.

There is a difference between striving and excellence.

Striving is trying to impress the world with everything we can do. Striving points back to us. It never arrives, it’s never satisfied, and it’s never good enough. Striving is a heart posture of, “I need to do this in order to be enough.” It’s chasing expectations that don’t exist, climbing endless ladders that lead to burnout and bondage in an effort to prove we are worth something.

But excellence is giving God our best as a gift. It’s being so in love with the Lord that you can’t help but want to give Him any less than your absolute best. It’s a heart posture that is so grateful for what He has given you that you want to steward those gifts well. It’s not about what other people think, but what God thinks, which makes excellence matter most when nobody is watching.

Excellence has a grace on it that striving does not. My 68% on a test sometimes isn’t the best, but if I gave it my everything at the time then it was excellent. Sometimes the result of 68% on my lab practical, 2 points below the class average, is just as excellent as the 96% I got on my last math midterm. Sometimes the straight As I got only twice in high school are just as excellent as the straight Cs I might get here. Sometimes the study sessions that seem to accomplish nothing are just as excellent as the ones where I manage to re-do every homework problem or memorize multiple chapters of information. A lot of times I do worse on tests than everyone I talk to, but that 54% was still excellent. A lot of days I am really grateful that my 54% was not 10%. I’m grateful that when my best is a literal F, God still makes a way. As long as my heart posture is to bring God my very best, it doesn’t matter if the world says I’m failing. I can find joy in my ability to worship Him because my heart matters more than the amount.

Excellence is having a spirit of gratitude rather than poverty. It’s working from a place of, “I am so grateful for what I have” instead of  “never enough.” It’s a heart posture of abundance rather than scarcity. You can have everything and have a spirit of poverty. Or you can have nothing and have a spirit of gratitude. Your heart posture has nothing to do with what you have.

It’s wanting to always improve, not because we need to improve to be enough, but because we want to continually give God our very best. Excellence is not coping with failure by becoming apathetic and deciding you don’t care about the result. We can’t give God our best if we don’t care about the results. Excellence is being able to accept that sometimes our best isn’t making it to the top of the food chain, but knowing that there are arms of grace there to catch us throughout the journey and being able to discern our flaws from our core identity and self worth.

So today my heart desires this: to love so strongly that I fail perfectly. To climb the mountain with my hands wide open. To have the courage to risk falling, hard, but trying anyways because that is what I’m called to do. To live my life as an act of gratitude and worship. To live imperfectly but fearlessly. And to give God my absolute best in everything. Not in an effort to prove my worth, but to steward all the gifts he’s given me well in this crazy abundant life I get to live.

I want to have the courage to be thankful in the midst of uncertainty. The courage to be okay with failing. The courage to worship when everything is crashing down and when my anxiety feels demonic. The courage to be weak and still give the little that I have.

I want to have the courage to improve and persevere. I have plans to meet with a success coach and learning strategist. I plan to attend test-taking workshops to figure out my problem with multiple choice tests. This is so that the best I can give as an offering can slowly become less and less tainted with my doubt. 

I want to have the courage to love and be loved regardless of my circumstances. To know that love surrounds me when my thoughts wage war. That love guards my heart when fear tries to tear me apart. When I think the storm will never end He says, “watch the giants fall.” His love tears through the night and rides on the storm, meeting me when my head is buried in my hands in my dorm room stairwell. For this, I can’t help but sing in the shower. I can’t help but lift my hands while brushing my teeth and walk into every season with a smile.

For this, I am so, incredibly grateful.  

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P.S: I took a break from blogging so I could give my finals my everything! There will be changes in the frequency of my posting, just because I don’t want this blog to be something I have to keep up with, but rather something that can continue to capture my journey through college. Thank you so much for 300 followers and sticking through my journey with me. It has taken me a lot longer to get to 300 than the average blogger which makes it so much more special. I am so grateful to be able to share this with you. I will be blogging all throughout undergrad and hopefully med school and wherever I end up after that. Love you all so much! ❤