For those of you who don’t know me (atleast not yet), the past year of my life has been a bit of a crazy and exciting ride. But amidst all of the excitement that comes along with living in a third world country during an engagement season, as well as getting married and moving to a brand new city, and starting new jobs (as well as graduate studies), there comes a whole lot of growth. And amidst the constant growth and change all around me, a whole lot of dependence on the Lord.
Whether it was making the brave choice to follow the Lord overseas to Uganda for a large portion of our engagement, or choosing an entirely different career path upon returning home and starting my own new business to give myself room to explore and do more of what I love, my life choices have not always “made the most sense,” and in many ways, may very well have looked “crazy” or “naïve” to those around me. But you know what gave me the courage to make the move to Uganda, when everyone and everything else told me it was crazy? My faith. A faith that trusts that God’s plan is better than our own. A faith that believes the plan He has for our lives is way better than one we could ever plan for ourselves. I have come to know and trust a God who has my best interest in mind, no matter what I am going through, and is always by my side. A God who guides and directs my steps, and lovingly catches me when I fall. A God who “provides where He guides.”
Do you know this God?
I don’t want to seem as if I am preaching at you or shoving religion down your throat, because let me tell you now… that is NOT what I am about. If anything, I was the girl back in high school that ran from those “Jesus lovers” like the plague. I thought they were over the top, and I wanted nothing to do with that kind of "hand-raising" religion. I believed in God and all, but I did not know what it meant to truly follow Him and live my life for Him. I wanted to be a Christian without fully giving my life to Him, and still desperately trying to hold onto certain areas of control. I have learned in my short 24 years of life that God has a mysterious way of using our greatest tragedies, trials and heartaches to lead us closer to Him, and teach us to give up control and run to Him alone. He wants to give us the comfort only He can give, and never, ever leaves our side. Through losing one of my dearest friends in a tragic college fraternity accident my freshman year of college at UNC Chapel Hill, I realized that I needed someone to catch me. Someone to give me hope that this friend of mine was living on, in a better place. That there was a reason I was still on this earth. So I fully dedicated my life to the Lord that very next week, and have been forever changed since that night laying in my bed, and asking God to show me that He really was real. And He sure did. I felt Him wrap me in His arms and tell me everything was going to be okay. He gave me a comfort and peace that surpasses all understanding. And I was forever changed.
It took me a couple years to learn what following Jesus really looked like. I had grown up in church and knew a lot about Jesus, but I had never really owned my faith and made it my own. I thought Christianity was a bunch of rules and “dos and don’ts,” and to me and my free-spirited personality, this was never extremely appealing to me. I am not about judging others or seeming “holier than thou,” so I honestly really didn’t know what being a follower of Christ was supposed to look like. But as I really started pursuing my faith and learning from some amazing friends at Clemson (after transferring there for my Sophomore year, upon the Lord’s leading), I slowly began to pick up new habits and ways of living that were honoring to God. I realized how many hurting and broken people needed to receive the same hope and love that I had received, and decided that this was the calling on my life. To love God and love people. As Billy Graham said, it really is that simple.
During both of my seasons serving in Uganda, I was so sweetly reminded of how overcomplicated we make the Christian faith here in America. We let divisions and denominations keep us from unity in Christ, which is all He ever wanted. God is love, and when we know God, we have that same love living inside of us. It is our duty to spread that love, and not just hold it in to ourselves. I loved getting to blog during my time overseas, and share what all I was learning from the amazing women and children I met through the ministry I was working with. But my sweet husband (and countless other close family and friends), kept challenging me to keep writing upon returning home. It is something I truly love to do, and know that it is something God has gifted me with to share His love and truth with others. And has called me to. He doesn't give us a light to hold in to ourselves. He gives us a light so that we can let it shine. And shine bright, for all the world to see.
I would never have had the courage to go live overseas as long as I did, start a creative business, or especially write a blog like this if it wasn’t for my husband, John Wesley. Not only does he encourage me, but he challenges me to be and do better. He believes God has a calling on my life (as He does on all of ours), and wants me to use it for His glory. So don’t think that my courage to do or start any of this was or is easy. It can be quite terrifying sometimes to put yourself out there to get rejected or even criticized. But in order to truly have an influence and be the light that Jesus has commanded us to be, sometimes it takes this courage. But, we are not always willing to do so.
So, here we are friends.
I hope and pray that this little blog serves as an encouraging space for you, and that you can share these words with anyone that needs to hear them. This is a space where I will share about God’s love and working in my own heart, but more importantly, His love for Creation overall. A place where I want to help lead others to the peace, joy, beauty, and hope I have found in Christ. He is my everything, and absolutely transformed my life. And He wants to be and do the same for yours, too.