Beauty Beneath It All | Writing

There are nights when I become very contemplative and aloof for no real reason; tonight is one of those nights, and they are becoming increasingly more common. My thoughts are restless, and while I told myself I would finish reading one of my school books, I found myself writing short stories and reflections instead.
The piece below was written for my entrance essay for Xavier University’s admissions application back in 2009. I love it now just as much as I loved it then, so I thought I would share it with you.
Enjoy, friends.
Snap. Snap. Snap. My camera flashed constantly, capturing every beam of light that flickered through the worn out windows and onto the bare, uneven floor. The closet next to the crumpled heap of what used to be a fireplace was left slightly ajar, revealing a sole hanger sitting on the rusty rod suspended inside. Snap. I soon discovered a red, leather, rocking chair sitting in the middle of a deserted attic; it was torn, and the padding inside was falling all over the floor. Snap. My fingers raced across the border of a broken window. The roof was within my reach, so I climbed outside to grace the cool, red metal with my presence. Snap. It was peaceful here, despite the cobwebs and miscellaneous families of spiders that seemed to hide in the most unlikely of places. I closed my eyes, trying to soak in the serenity of this old, dilapidated place, but I knew there was more to be seen. A surprise was waiting for me.
The Victorian farmhouse that my friend and I had discovered seemed to possess a certain presence about it. I could feel the family who once lived there; I could envision them walking about and doing their daily chores in my mind. As I entered the basement, an old television, an open refrigerator, and a rusty medical gurney welcomed me. To the left, there was a room filled with crushed Mason jars that gleamed with light from more broken windows. Snap. The house was a collection of ordinary hidden treasures, yet I still felt that there was something more. I wanted to find something that would relate in my life; something that would give me a sense of purpose. I glanced once again at the medical gurney on my right. I wonder what happened here? I thought. A family member must have been ill not long before the house became deserted. Did they believe in life after death? Heaven? God? I could feel a presence in the house…but where was it coming from?
I trudged along behind my friend Megan, still intent on finding some unexpected surprise. I carefully set my foot on a rotten step, making sure it wouldn’t give out on me, and began the journey back upstairs. No sooner had I begun climbing when Megan exclaimed, “It’s a cross made out of sticks!” I looked down at the step and saw two small sticks creating a cross. Snap. This was exactly what I had been looking for, and it was where I felt the “presence” was coming from. I stared at the figure before me for a short moment, and then looked up at Megan and smiled.
On the way back to our car, I glanced once more at the broken house. It was then I realized that God exists everywhere, and that even when everything is falling apart, a glimmer of truth can still be discovered underneath the rotting soil. All I have to do is look for Him.

The Search for Clarity | Faith

New Years has come and gone, people are getting back into their daily routines, and many have created resolutions (which they will undoubtedly fail to keep). Yet 2017 comes filled with hope for a fresh start and new beginnings. Honestly, all I can say is good riddance to 2016.

Bye, Felicia.

Seriously, though. 2016 was a rough year for me. There were a lot of really great moments – like traveling to Nicaragua, California, and Italy – but it was also a year filled with more emotions and frustrations than I’ve experienced in a long time. For the first time in 4 or 5 years, I started questioning God’s presence. God, where ARE You in the midst of this? I still am questioning that, to a certain extent – but I’m starting to come out on the other side.

For the past 7 months or so, I feel that God has very clearly called me to pray intensely for a specific situation. And I have been. Almost every day since that realization, I have been praying for extended periods of time. As a result, I’ve had multiple visions relating to this situation. Some are pretty clear to me as to what they represent, and others are really murky and unclear. Regardless, my prayer life has been drastically altered through this experience.

It’s great, right? Well, yes – except that praying like this leaves me exhausted. Last year, for a couple months, I felt December 2016 was going to bring a significant amount of clarity and direction. I prayed and prayed and prayed that God would show up in December. New Years Eve came and went, and suddenly it was January 2017 and I was still without clarity.

This hit me really hard. God, where ARE You?

Really, the whole last week of December was a struggle for me. I was really struggling to see, hear, or feel God, and yet I was still praying fervently. Many of my prayers were said through tears of doubt and anger, and there were days where I just didn’t want to do anything because I was exhausted from the whole experience.

God, give me clarity.
Please give me clarity.
I need you to show up.
I need to know I’m not crazy.
I need to know I heard You.

These were all things I prayed multiple times a day.

This week, I have mostly just been wondering what I missed and where I went wrong. Really, nothing is clear anymore, but I’m learning to sit in the midst of uncertainty and be ok with it.

Tonight when I came home from dinner, I opened Facebook, and a friend’s status really resonated with me:

“Sometimes we’re praying for clarity when we should really be praying for more faith.”

Maybe that is what I’ve been missing this whole time. It’s not about having clarity, although that would be really great. Maybe it’s about being willing to sit in a messy situation, for an extended period of time, to learn what real faith looks like. Maybe it’s more about strengthening my faith through prayer and trusting God when there are no immediate answers.

Maybe it’s about trusting God when there are no answers. 

Or maybe God isn’t answering because He wants us to decide (I do believe God does this, frequently – that He allows us to choose when both options are good).

I read another great quote today from Pete Enns’ book The Sin of Certainty, and it really connected with me on this same point:

“Trust remains when our reason betrays us, when we don’t understand what is going on, when we don’t see what God is up to, when God for all intents and purposes is not faithful or trustworthy. Our level of insight does not determine our level of trust. In fact, seeking insight rather than trust can get in the way of our walk with God.”

Does anyone else ever feel this way? That it seems like God isn’t fulfilling His promises, or that, because a situation doesn’t make sense, God must not be involved?

Friends, I am here to tell you that is a lie straight from the Enemy.

If you are like me, and you are wrestling with finding God in a tough situation, I feel you. Know you are not alone. More than anything, know God works in ways we don’t understand. While we are constantly betrayed by our minds, we are never betrayed by God. Perhaps God is keeping us in the struggle longer so we learn to trust Him completely and find a stronger faith.

From now on, my prayers will (hopefully) sound more like God, give me faith instead of God, give me clarityOur relationship with God should be focused on growing closer TO Him, not seeking answers FROM Him. When we care more about the answers than the journey, we seek insight instead of trust, and that leads to religion instead of relationship.