First Stop in 2018: Chattanooga

One of the best things I started doing in 2017 was listening to The Daily, a podcast by The New York Times, on my way to work or school every morning. Over my winter break, they posted a podcast at the end of the new year, titled “The Year in Sound.” I was driving on a rainy night, and for 21 minutes I listened to recordings from throughout the year of reporters and witnesses relaying their headlines and stories. Almost every story was tragic, and by the end my heart was heavy. 

A few days later, I was reading Advent for Everyone: A Journey with the Apostles by N.T. Wright and these words stared at me straight in the eye:

You are never going to celebrate the goodness of the creator if you feed your mind only on the places in the world which humans have made ugly. Instead, fill your mind with all the things that God has given us to be legitimately pleased with - and enjoy!
— N.T. Wright, "Advent for Everyone: A Journey with the Apostles"

It’s an understatement to say that a lot happened in 2017. It's so easy to narrow in on the ugly in the nation, or the parts I'd rather skip over in my own life. From the very beginning in 2017, I knew changes were coming. 

Last year at this time I was living in different state. In Georgia, my  heart was in a location. I had surety of being led to the mountain. I should've had a lot of fears since I knew I was leaving. I clung to hope, convincing myself that good was still to come and I couldn't know all that was coming. It was hard to close the door to a classroom at the end of each final, knowing I was also closing the door to the education I valued and the people I loved. I would quietly sing "World Wide Open" by Matthew Wright as I walked to the next place, reminding myself that to have a world wide open, I would need to be stretched and go through the pain. That's just how it works. There's nothing to be afraid of in the pain because God is still directing the next steps. I realize I need God in the pain. 

Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to go back to the college of my freshman year. Almost a year later, the mountain and city felt very different to me. Showing this man who came in my life (one of God's surprises for me in 2017) my favorite study spot and where I lived for a year reaffirmed why it is so important to remain hopeful during change. 

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God is not bound to a location on a map, however treasured those places are in our hearts. He is with us in each transition. We're given majestic waterfalls and mountaintop experiences for a time so we can wonder at the mystery of a plan far different - far better than our expectations. I may have said goodbye to old dreams, but new dreams - they're here, too.

In 2017 I knew change was quickly approaching and was praying for an open heart. This year I'm praying for the same thing: an open heart because I'm not expecting change. If you would have talked to me last year, you would soon find all I've wanted to do is stay. I wanted to plant the roots deep in community and familiarity. Now, I get to stay. It's an active word, one that requires pushing boundaries - being the one to reach out first - showing up on the days you'd rather stay under the covers - challenging yourself to see your location in new ways.  I'm also learning that it can be just as hard to go through change as it does to stay somewhere. 

I'll leave this with a quote by Paul Tripp. May we take pleasure in the mystery so that our hearts are prepared to know our God and hear the stories of the people around us. 

It’s the “If only I could understand this or that, then I’d be secure” way of living. But it never works. In your most brilliant moment, you will still be left with mystery in your life; sometimes even painful mystery. We all face things that appear to make little sense and don’t seem to serve any good purpose. So rest is never found in the quest to understand it all. No, rest is found in trusting the one who understands it all and rules it all for his glory and our good.
— Paul David Tripp, "New Morning Merices"