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Tomorrow is my official last day as an intern with Cru at Ohio University.

 

I’ve tried to sit down and write this post a hundred times. I’ve been keeping a page in my journal entitled “Things I’ve Learned as an Intern” to try and help me catch the ideas when they come. I’ve spent an entire afternoon contemplating the year and processing through it with the Lord. And the conclusion I’ve come to is this:

 

I can’t sum this year up.

 

I can’t wrap it up in a blog post. I can’t make a “10 Things I’ve Learned” list. I can’t even write about one thing I’ve learned. I just can’t.

 

This year has been too full, too hard, too wonderful, too everything.

 

And as much as I want to communicate how much this year has meant to me, how much the Lord has taught me, I can’t.

 

Because this year I’ve truly walked with the Lord. Not perfectly, and not constantly, but closely. Day by day, hour by hour, moment by moment. This year has forced me to do something I’ve always longed to – rely on the Lord as if my very life depends on it. Because it does. And I do.

 

This year, for a million reasons, I’ve pulled up close to Him. And He has become as near to me as my own heart, as close and as constant as my breath.

 

I’m not sure why, and I don’t know how, but something this year changed me.

 

I have found Him, and I have drawn close. And the joy is thick, and sweet, and constant – no matter my circumstances.

I am so profoundly thankful.

“Bless the Lord, O my soul! And all that is within me, bless His holy name! Bless the Lord, o My soul!” – Psalm 103 ESV

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will update this blog regularly. I will, I will! I know I’m typically a pretty sporadic blogger, but this year I’m hoping very much to be different. I want to use this blog to update my family, friends, and ministry partners about my year as an Intern. Also, my big sister essentially threatened me with eternal nagging if I don’t, so there’s that. Let the update commence.

1. I finished my support raising on time! Woo! It was a crazy whirlwind. For those of you who weren’t keeping track, on July 1st, I had 36% of my support in. By August 1st, I had about 95%. Crazy. Insane. God is so good. It literally came pouring in from all directions, and it was all I could do to keep up. I wish I could physically hug each and every person who helped make that happen!

2. I moved back to Athens. This life change was also a crazy whirlwind. I didn’t set a hard and fast date for moving, simply because it was so hard to know when I’d be at 100% supported. And, in accordance with Cru policy, until I was at 100%, I would not be allowed to “report to campus” (aka go to work.) My job, until that point, would be to stay home and finish my financial support raising, which is most efficiently done from my parent’s home in Dayton. So I stayed. And suddenly, my support went from 80% to 95% in a week, and I was looking at having to move – quick. I had a wedding to go to first, though. Then, while at that wedding, I got word that some furniture I was poised to inherit needed to be picked up – now.
And thus, I found myself in a car at 6:30am with Clay, making a journey that looked something like this.

Screen shot 2013-08-23 at 10.17.03 PM

551 miles. 15 hours. 1 car. 1 UHaul. Way too much gas. A whole lot of exhaustion.

But, at the end of it all, I was moved into my new apartment in Athens, and started to settle in and get ready to start Staff Planning.

3. Staff Planning & Intern Life began. Staff planning happened this past week, and for the first time, I really did anything that made me feel like “Cru Staff.” I was given my list of responsibilities. This year, I will disciple (mentor) a handful of women, lead an Action Group (upperclassmen Bible study), help run the movement at Hocking College (a nearby school), and run the ministry’s communications (i.e. anything social media, photography, videography, design, and printing.) Whew. I’m tired from just typing that.

At Staff Planning we planned for this upcoming year. year. I prayed for it, strategized, took notes, and mostly sat quietly, feeling pretty intimidated. I didn’t I give much thought to what it would feel like to be the only first year intern, but if I had I don’t think I would have come close to what I really feel now. It’s such a mixture. On one hand, I’m so happy to be here, and so excited. On the other, I’m ridiculously nervous.  I’ve been literally thrown into “adult life” in the course of a week (it’s not an easy thing after 19 years of being a student.)  I’m working alongside people I highly admire, and I hate to disappoint. I’m a perfectionist with a performance-driven bent. I’m an introvert who struggles to make deep friendships. And I’m far, far away from almost every friend to whom I feel close enough to bare my soul.

And we haven’t even started to work with students yet! Yup, feeling just a liiiittle bit overwhelmed.

I’m trying to take big breaths, pray, and remember that it’s ok to cry when I really miss my friends, my dogs, and my mom. The next 12 months are going to be a great big adventure, and I really want to fully live each and every minute of them. I don’t want to miss out on a single minute of this crazy, beautiful, wonderful life that the Lord has prepared for me.

“…now at last they were beginning Chapter One of The Great Story, which no one has ever read, which goes on forever, in which every chapter is better than the last.” – The Chronicles of Narnia.

Yay! Moving!

Yay! Moving!

New Apartment!

New Apartment!

Just another day with Cru Staff - at our annual "Staff Retreat."

Just another day with Cru Staff – at our annual “Staff Retreat.”

“Your romantic relationship, is meant to make Jesus look big more than it is meant to provide you personal fulfillment.”

That quote from an article  I read on The Gospel Coalition the other day really stuck out to me. The idea that my relationship with my boyfriend is meant to make Jesus look good more than it is meant to make me feel good is nothing new. In fact, that idea was something that we outline as one of our primary goals in dating each other before we even began dating. On our list of boundaries, we even listed 1 Corinthians 6:19, 20 (“You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body,”) as one of the definitions of the way in which we would relate to each other.

So, at least on paper, I had an understanding of this idea.  However, in this season of my life, it’s been becoming more and more obvious. Now, before I get started, I want to make it clear. I love my boyfriend. He is wonderful. He is kind, funny, gentle, loyal, patient, thoughtful, humble, loving, and affectionate. He has one of the biggest servant’s hearts I’ve ever seen. He is a man of God I’m blessed to be dating, and yes, he makes me very happy. I have a ton of fun with him. Our relationship does provide me with an immense amount of satisfaction.

BUT (there’s always a but), that’s not the point of our relationship. And I’ve been seeing that play out. Clay is a year older than me, and just graduated. We’ll be spending this next year (at least) in a long distance relationship as he lives Columbus and I live in Athens. We’re stuck being far apart. We don’t get to see each other like we’d like to. Because I’m school and he needs to work, our relationship can’t be at the stage we’d like it to be.  We submit ourselves to boundaries and restrain our affections.

Those things aren’t fun. I’m not going to lie. They just aren’t. I’ve cried about all of them. Sometimes, I really hate them. But we do them because we believe that making Jesus look good is more important than making ourselves feel good.

But there, in obedience born out of our deep love for Jesus, is something very sweet. There is a deep, surpassing, unfailing grace. Grace that makes me able to say “no” to myself, and “yes” to glorifying the Lord. Grace that enables me to get through the days when missing him seems unbearable, and savor the days that we’re together. Grace that allows me to praise and give thanks in ALL circumstances, even this one. Grace that enables me to say, “Not my will, but thine.”

And that is love. Not what our culture says of love, which is made unbridled passion, shirking responsibilities, or breaking rules. But real, true, deep love. Love that is willing to give up what it wants for the good of another.  Love that is willing to wait, for a season, for a sweeter and greater reward. Love that is patient, kind, gentle. Love that bears all things, even when it means separation. Believes all things, even when the belief is that it is best to be apart. Hopes all things, even when that hope seems so far off. Endures all things, even when the thought of a year of this seems unendurable, because there is a far greater Love we submit to. 

“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.”
(1 Corinthians 13:12 ESV)

“Do you ever feel alone inside your head?”

Those lyrics from a song I like have been ringing in my head lately, probably because they are very true. As of late, I’ve felt trapped inside my own head much of the time. Senior year has been wonderful in many ways, but hard in many ways as well.

One specific thing that has been particularly tough is my feeling of unimportance, or, for lack of better words, “being left behind.” Most of the people in my life that I’m close to have moved on to a different stage of life. Graduated, gotten jobs, gotten engaged/married, moved into permanent residences (at least more permanent than a college house).

And it sounds silly and stupid, but it’s hard for me not to look at my friends and compare myself. To their houses, which have beds not supported by cinder blocks, and their kitchens, which have appliances that probably actually work. To their jobs, which actually pay salaries and aren’t titled something like “Student Employee.” To their lives which just somehow seem more concrete and in synch with each other’s than my own.

When we talk about our lives, my problems seem so small, so much less important. My accomplishments seem likewise, small and less important. I feel myself wanting to fade into the background with the problems and feelings that seem like no one would care about or understand.

But that’s stupid. And I know that. I know that I’m right where God would have me. He’s already been working in so many ways this year exactly where I am.

It’s just incredibly hard to be separated from those you love, not only by distance but also by stage of life.

I’ve been asking the Lord about this, about why He would make this so hard for me, and what He would have me do in the middle of this, and His response over and over has revolved around Psalm 103.

Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and all that is within me,
bless his holy name!
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
(Psalm 103:1-5 ESV)

Bless the Lord, O my soul. Thank Him, even for this, even for these hard things, even for these tears. He satisfies you with good, renews and redeems. Bless the Lord, o my soul. All that is within me (even the parts of me that are unhappy) bless his holy name.

FORGET NOT His benefits. How he loves me. How He cherishes me. How He has saved me and put my feet on solid ground. The joy, the strength, the wonder He has put in my heart. The indescribable beauty that is my life, and the unshakeable confidence I can have in Him. Forget not!

When I’m tempted to compare myself to my friends, and feel like my life is not where it’s supposed to be, God is reminding me, “Bless me, Emily, and forget not what I have already given you!”

“For the Lord God is a sun and shield, the Lord bestows favor and honor. NO good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.” Psalm 84:11

As everyone ramps up to head back to school, and college freshmen get ready to pack mom’s minivan and head off college, newspapers and websites are all publishing their obligatory “college advice” articles. As an incoming freshmen to Ohio University 3 years ago, I read all of those articles that I could. I wanted to be ready.

The thing is, all of those articles seemed to say the same things. “Don’t buy your books.” “Make sure you study.” “Join a club, make sure to exercise!”  All good advice, to be sure. But they didn’t prepare me. In fact, there are several core things that  no one told me about college. So, of course, here it comes – The 5 things no one tells you about college

1. It’s really hard to have your heart in two places.

As excited as I was as a college freshmen, nothing prepared me for just how completely I would fall in love with my new home of Athens, Ohio. Over the three years that I’ve been there, it has grown to be my home. My friends are there. My bedroom is there. My stuff is there. I have tons of memories, favorite haunts, favored coffee shops and delis. In so many ways, my heart is embedded in those places. But, just the same – I spent 18 years growing up in Dayton, Ohio. My childhood home is there. My parents are there. My dogs are there. Old memories, old haunts, other favored shops and eateries. My heart is divided, and it’s really hard. When I’m in Dayton, I miss Athens. When I’m in Athens, I miss Dayton. It can be hard to split your world between two different cities. So be prepared.

2. You’ll be a nomad.

#2 essentially goes along with #1 in some ways. Because your heart and life is in two cities, you’ll constantly be traveling back and forth between them. Important events and people are in both cities. It’s inevitable that you’ll need to travel. But even beyond that, you become a sort of nomad, roaming from place to place to see people, go on trips, etc. For example, this summer, there will be 10 total weekends. At the end of it all, I will have been home for approximately 3 of them. Between moving in and out, weddings, parties, bridal showers, visiting friends, and vacations, I’m rarely home. Even at school, it seems every weekend I’m either going home, going to Columbus, going on a retreat. I’m always in the car, going somewhere. And while I love seeing friends, I hate living out of a suitcase But it’s inevitable. So buy an air mattress (college friends are too poor to have beds for you to sleep on!) and invest in a good suitcase. Eventually, you’ll settle down (or so I’ve heard.)

3. You’ll often panic, and feel like you have no idea what you’re doing.

In high school, things were relatively simple. You did teenager things, and your parents handled the big stuff like bills, budgets, car repairs, and grocery shopping. But now, all of the sudden, it’s up to you. It starts the moment your parents walk out of your dorm room and leave you to run your own life. People don’t blink twice when handing you the lease to an apartment to sign, or telling you to drive the company car to pick up supplies from Walmart (true story, had to drive the company minivan in the summer 2010 and felt like I was going to die). You’re an adult. And that’s weird. When I signed the papers and was handed my first credit card this past spring, I wanted to run back into the bank and scream “WAIT! WAIT! Are you sure I can have this? I don’t know what I’m doing!” It’s strange how overwhelming grocery shopping can be when realize that you’re going to need to buy more than Oreos and Nutella. And I wish I could say that it gets better, but from what I’ve heard, it really doesn’t. Soon, you’re gonna find yourself getting a career, getting married, and having a baby. And the whole time the refrain in the back of your head will sound something like “WAIT! WAIT! Are you sure I can have this? I don’t know what I’m doing!” But you’re an adult now! So take the keys, take the car (or the husband or the baby or whatever) and start moving – life is all about learning on the job!

4. You’ll make the best friends of your entire life – only to see them all scatter after graduation.

The first few weeks of college are hard, and awkward. You don’t have those friends you’ve known since preschool anymore. People are different. Everyone’s trying to adjust. But slowly, as the year goes on, you meet people like you. You start hanging out, getting lunch, going uptown. And, somewhere in it all, you become best friends. You spend the next 4 years spending pretty much your entire life with these people. You live with them, take classes with them, work with them, date them, love them. They become the best friends you’ve ever known, and they have a good chunk of your heart and soul.
And then, one day, you graduate. And everyone gets married, gets jobs, and moves to whatever city their new employer is in. Sometimes it’s just the next city over, and sometimes it’s another continent. Yes, you can visit and Skype and text and whatever, but it’s still really hard – it just isn’t the same.
I don’t say this to discourage people from making friends. By all means, make these friends – like I said, they’re the best you’ll probably ever know! But, be aware. There will be a day that college ends. So treasure your friendships. Someday, they won’t live in the dorm room next door.

5.The future becomes super-real, super-fast – and it’s terrifying.

Throughout your whole life, people have been asking you, “What do you want to do when you grow up?” Even in high school, you answer with an, “Oh, I don’t know, maybe a scientist, or a hairdresser…” It all seems so vague and far away. It doesn’t seem to matter much if you don’t know. But then, one day (and it comes at different points for everyone) it hits you. The “real world” is coming, and it’s coming FAST. People keep asking you that stupid question, “What do you want do when you graduate?” (Because, news flash, you already are grown up [AAAAH!], and now you’re just waiting to get a piece of paper to confirm that you’re competent to actually work for a living.)
People keep asking me that and all I can think is, “Umm. I want to be able to buy groceries. And pay rent.” And that’s really about the extent of what I know! I have NO IDEA what I want to do for the rest of my life!!!! And like I outline in #3, I don’t really feel ready for any of this. Living on my own? A job? Marriage? Babies? When did I go from not being responsible enough to have my own dog to being allowed to have an infant?
When the future changes from a “someday” into a “now,” well, it’s terrifying.

So that’s my list. 5 things that no one tells you about college. Now that I’ve sufficiently scared you, here’s the last thing I have to say. It will be among the best 4 years of your life. Really, for all of the scary and the bad, it really is great. I won’t lie, it’s gonna be really hard. You’re gonna struggle. You’re gonna cry. You’re gonna have days that make you want to quit. But it’s so worth it. So live up every minute of it. It goes by faster than you know.

Also… GO BOBCATS!

With the countdown at less than a week, I’m getting super anxious to get back to Athens. My “back to school” shopping is done.” My room is in shambles. My totes and boxes are all out and half-packed. Yup. It’s time to go back. And the closer I get to going back, the more I begin to realize just how much I have missed Athens. You can probably guess what’s coming next, so I’ll just jump right in!

Top 5 Things I’m Looking Forward to in Athens

1.Red bricks. No, not the bar. But those streets. Those bouncy, slippery, trippy, pot-hole filled streets. For as much pain as they cause me (and my car’s suspension), I’ve missed them. There’s nothing like the red glow they get when the sunsets, or that satisfying sheen when they get wet at night.

2. Donkey coffee. I miss Donkey coffee so much you’d think I was dating it. Seriously, I have a terrible craving that only their Marakesh blend and a huge soy-milk vanilla chai can fill.

3. 35 Stimson Ave. Comfy red couch. Dirty porch. Street football. Sonic runs. After-180 hangouts. Yup. I miss it.

4.Front Room. I really miss froomin’ it, and not because they have such terrible coffee, but because I know if I need a friend, I can almost always find one there.

5. Friends. Cheesey. Cliche. But so true. I miss my friends terribly. I need to see them, hear them, and hug them. After all, what good is Athens without a good group of friends to share it with?

I’ve been debating this post for some time now, unable to decide whether it would be appropriate and beneficial to publish it.  Of course, I mean all that I say within it, and it’s all true.  However, as a sister in Christ, I do care about my brothers – and I think too often, we resort to bashing them as they learn how to be men, instead of encouraging them.  I pray that this post will not be of that sort. I pray that this post is written in humility, love, and sincerity, and that it is read in a similar manner.

That being said, I’m going to attempt to move on to say what is burdening my heart, however clumsily I express it. And it is this – it never gets any less painful to see women that I love broken and defeated by men. It never pains me any less to hear stories of women bruised and hurting from mistreatment. And I will never cease to get tears in my eyes to see a woman of God in tears over a man in her life who isn’t treating her like the daughter of the King that she is.

All of this might be a tad bit easier if the men involved were not believers. If this were so, what they did would still be wrong, but at least understandable.  How can you expect a man who is blind and lame to lead a woman without damaging her?  But these men are Christians, or at least claim to be.

And lest I misconstrue anything, I want to say that I realize that I am absolutely blessed to be surrounded by the men that I know.  You are godly, and growing, and encouraging, and I appreciate you. That being said, much of the damage being done to these women that I love is unintentional.  Hurt caused by men who had no intent of doing so.  Pain inflicted by men who, in all honesty, were probably desperately trying to discern God’s will in their lives.

I get that. I really do. We’re all young. We’re all growing. We need patience and grace.  But here is what I think many men fail to understand –

Women. Are. Fragile.

I’ll say it again. We’re fragile. Delicate. Fine. Fragile.

Sure, sometimes we have backs of steel (or at least we pretend we do). But we have limbs of porcelain and hearts of much finer material.

Understand this, please. We are much, much more breakable than you, or your guy friends. Don’t break us any more than this world already has, enmeshed in sin as it is.

Don’t flirt with us if you aren’t going to pursue us. Don’t even start. If you want to pursue a relationship, pursue it. Don’t leave us hanging.

Don’t begin to pursue us, and then back out. Be serious. Good intentions aren’t enough.  Many Christian men with good intentions still hurt their sisters because they rush into pursuing her before they really think about it, and then have to back out and leave a crushed woman in their wake.

Don’t date us if you aren’t ready. And by all means, don’t marry us if you aren’t ready to love us like Christ loves the Church!

Please, in all your dealings with women, remember – we are far more fragile and easily hurt than you can even imagine.

“live… in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. ”
(1 Peter 3:7 ESV)

Right now, I’m sitting in 32 N. College Street (the B side, of course), in my pjs, drinking a cup of coffee, staring out at the street.  And I could just burst with happiness.  Because I’m back in Athens.

I can’t believe how much I’ve missed it.  And I want to describe what coming back to Athens has felt like to me. So. Here goes –

Coming back to Athens Feels Like:

  • That first big bite of a really, really good bowl of ice cream.
  • Stepping into a warm shower after a really long day.
  • A hug from a friend you really love.
  • Sunshine on your back as you’re napping in a warm bed.
  • A big mug of delicious coffee and a good book.
  • That giggly weak feeling you get after you’ve laughed really hard for a long time.
  • The way your cheeks hurt when you can’t stop smiling.
  • Being able to breathe again.
  • Finding your family.
  • Coming home.

Love. Joy. Peace. Patience. Kindness. Goodness. Faithfulness. Gentleness. Self control.

The Fruits of the Spirit. Out of all of those, only two have ever come naturally me – love and joy. As long as I can remember, I’ve been gifted to be (for the most part) naturally joyful. Some might call it “easily entertained”, but I prefer to think of it as taking delight in the smallest of things. Even when things are hard, or even downright awful – it doesn’t take much to inspire at least a small moment of joy in me.

Lately, though, this hasn’t been as easy for me. In the midst of spring quarter, joy hasn’t been the easiest emotion to come by.  I’ve had to work for it.  Struggle for it.  Fight for it.

But in doing so, I’ve realized all of the things that I really do have that are reasons for joy. I have more reasons for joy than I deserve. So, here they are. Why I am fighting for joy;

  • a wonderful group of friends who know me intimately (and love me anyway)
  • a beautiful campus to call home
  • a great Bible study to bring encouragement to my Tuesday nights
  • a dorm filled with friends
  • the opportunity to join with 400 other college kids on praise God on my Thursday nights
  • a great job with hilarious co-workers
  • the wealth of opportunities for growth, friendship, and fellowship that Campus Crusade for Christ has provided me
  • plenty of laughter
  • deep discussions
  • books!
  • flowers
  • coloring books and 152-count crayons
  • picnics by the Hocking
  • bright green ESV pocket Bibles
  • laughter. laughter. laughter. – Never hard to come by

This is worth fighting for.

“For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.” – Is 55:12

Being a Christian has convinced me of two things:
1) That I am absolutely, utterly wretched and sinful to my core.
2) That I am loved and considered precious and priceless anyway.

That’s the paradox that I am coming to see in my life.  Each day, it seems, I recognize my own sinfulness more and more. I disappoint myself by every day, “for I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate” (Romans 7:15 esv).

But, instead of sinking into despair over my condition, with each passing day, I become happier and happier.

I realize I am bad, I put myself lower, and exalt the Cross higher.

With each abandonment of self, I come to know myself better.

With each experience of dying to myself, I come more alive.

With each day that I put my own happiness aside in favor of the glory of God, I find more happiness than I ever imagined.

This is the paradox of the Cross.

O, the wonderful Cross – bids me come and die, to find that I may truly live”


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Past Musings