I know I said this last week, but I cannot believe how fast time is flying by. Week 3 is already over. I am a fourth of the way to outreach, and as of tomorrow it will have officially been a month since I set foot in Minnesota. As crazy as that thought is, I wouldn’t change anything for the world. The experiences I’ve had and the friendships I’ve made have been better than anything I could have imagined. The genuine kindness, love, and support is nothing like I’ve ever experienced before. I actually thought for a minute there that people were being nice to me out of obligation, but after talking about it with my friends here it’s clear that that is not the case, which is still baffling to me, but I’m sort of slowly learning to accept the love and kindness that is given because I deserve it. For those of you who know me well, that’s probably exciting to hear, at least I think it is. But you're probably sitting there reading that like HELLO WE'VE BEEN TRYING TO SHOW THIS TO YOU THE WHOLE TIME! Well I’m sorry it took until now to click. It’s been a long road, but through the speakers these past few weeks I’m learning quite a bit not only about the topic, but about myself, but I’ll get back to that in a moment here.
Last Sunday after writing my last update we went to Jen’s parents’ place for fourth of July festivities. I think every single one of us realized that we have a passion for volleyball whether we’re good at it or not. It was a great way to get to know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. For instance, I can serve pretty well, but I can't hit anything because my depth perception is nonexistent. I had a lot of fun though and I’m sure I’m not just speaking for myself when I say that. There was good food, good games, good views (they’re on a river with Mount Baker in the background - insane), and good fellowship. The best part though was the fireworks. There’s just something so great about lighting stuff up and making it explode. Now usually I’m not the biggest fan of fireworks, but this was really cool. And I got the best 4th of July shot in the history of my photography. Special thanks to Corban, Eva, and Andy for humoring me by following me around the yard while fireworks shot off in front of them. Like I said, these guys are good people.
We started the week later than planned on Monday since we didn’t go to bed until really late. I’m grateful for that however because I got to sleep in AND we didn't miss any lecture time. This past week Bryan and Bethany Pugner came from Maryland to teach us about the Character and Nature of God. I accidentally told Him day 1 that he wasn’t a gentle speaker. And I wasn’t wrong, but I’m sure I could have worded it differently. What I meant was I love his attitude towards what he was saying. It was direct, there was none of that Christian fluff that I've grown to hate. He blatantly told us the reality of the bible and it was clear in the way he spoke that he doesn’t care what people think about the truth. He did however care that we understood it, he answered our questions, and even more importantly in my opinion, cared about our lives and our stories and how we got here. Bethany was the same, more gentle than Bryan, but it was so clear that they cared about the relationships that were being built. Their dynamic as well as a couple was very inspiring. I enjoyed hearing and learning from them both and I love that they didn’t shy away from the hard questions. One of my favorite parts of the week was talking about the question I’m sure a lot of believers have been asked: If God is so good why does He send people to hell. We discussed how that question is inherently wrong. We are all destined for hell, God is so good that He gives us a way to get to Heaven. Talking about God’s character wasn’t a new thing, but the way it was talked about really opened my eyes to who God actually is. And it helped that Bryan and Bethany so clearly have lived through what they were speaking on. Bethany talked about worship one afternoon, and having been a worship leader at one point in my life it was fun hearing her experience. One of my favorite quotes from the whole week came from her lesson, “Worship is a direct expression of our ultimate purpose for living - to glorify God and fully enjoy Him” She talked about worship being a heart posture, which I think is said a lot, but she really dove into what that means in both a corporate and personal setting. Going along with walking out what they were talking, they joined us for our evening of worship on Tuesday. I really missed worship nights. There's something special about a room lit up by string lights and an acoustic guitar and everyone's voices being lifted up to the Lord in whatever way they see fit. It’s so personal but so corporate and it's something I just adore.
Despite how amazing Tuesday night and Wednesday lessons and outreach prep were, by dinner time I realized I had gotten myself into a funk. I craved a cigarette. Which is a habit I suppose I’m still working on kicking (It’s been a month since any nicotine though so that's exciting!) But I knew that that craving meant something was going on deeper down. God has been poking at my identity these past few weeks. And He poked hard on Wednesday night. I realized I have been holding onto all the fear about who I am that was hiding in my heart. I may be vulnerable, but I definitely have been holding onto the deep broken parts of me for way too long and I didn't know how to let go. I knew it was going to be scary, I felt like if I got rid of my identity rooted in hurt and brokenness and illness and addiction and destruction I wouldn’t have anything, but I realize now that that is not true. I struggled with it on Thursday morning too. I felt like I was like a small child that wouldn’t let go of this tiny toy that feels like it's being ripped away just so I can be handed something ten times cooler and way better than I could have ever dreamed of. It just hit me that I can’t have both my view of who I am and God’s view of who I am. And honestly it sucks. But I cried for the first time since DTS started Thursday morning (it was due to be honest). Bryan went into talking about how it's God’s desire to redeem and restore you. He said that in God’s eyes the brokenness is beautiful, but what’s even more beautiful is God’s original design. And that is what God wants to restore us to be. Cue the waterworks. To make matters worse (for me and my crying fit) we started talking about fatherhood and he told a personal story that made me realize I don’t have to let my past and my addictions mess up my future children. I know that I’m 21 and far from marriage let alone children, but that was a fear deeply rooted that was weeded out and for that I am eternally grateful. After praying over Bryan and Bethany, Bethany asked if she could pray for me. And that meant more than anything in the world. I feel like from Thursday to now I was able to process everything and truly let go for the first time in my life, something that I have been holding onto so tightly since I was 13. It’s crazy though, the pastor of my church even touched on everything I was dealing with this week in prayer this morning, the identity issues, the alcoholism, and just the struggle of not believing God’s view of you. But God is good. He’s really, really good.
Now getting away from the emotional side of things we went camping on Friday! I don’t think words could accurately describe the beauty, so I’m just gonna add a lot of photos. But I’ve seriously never been somewhere more beautiful in my entire life. And there was something pretty much magical about waking up in a hammock to the sounds of flowing water and the sun shining down on your face. We stopped at rivers and waterfalls and it was all just a beautiful creation that reminded you of God’s glory. I got to hang out of my car window loudly singing one of my favorite songs with some of my favorite people as we drove through the mountains. I don’t think I’ve felt happiness like that in my entire life. The whole trip was an experience. We played games, we worshipped, we swam, and we ended it with edaleen’s ice cream. I have a new found love for adventure. Not that it didn’t exist before, but it's definitely grown. My heart is seriously just beyond full right now, it feels like it could explode. I am just so filled with gratitude and love for God and what He’s placed me into. It’s really exciting that I get to call WA home for now (and maybe for the future too, who knows… I sure don’t), but at least for this season I get to be around beautiful people in a beautiful environment and I couldn’t be more excited about it. Until next week!