A few months ago, I lost a close friend & brother in Christ to a car accident. The weeks following were rainy, mournful, and difficult — I remember my friend Alexa sending me a song called “There is a Cloud” to inspire me to look to God, but I couldn’t listen to it without crying. At the time, I couldn’t fully understand what the lyrics meant. The song spoke of receiving the rain as a blessing, yet every time I looked at the dark clouds I saw nothing but the fact that they covered the sunshine.
Today, Meagan asked us to create something that represented how we had been feeling in the past week, and what God had been teaching us. I decided to paint what has been on my heart, and this is what the result was.
You see, difficult times are hard to handle, but they are not empty. They are filled with the truth and presence of God. I made this to depict the meaning of the song Alexa sent to me in those hard times, and how I got through them. In this painting, the man is waist deep in an ocean of chaos. The wave is about to crash on him, yet he reaches up to the cloud. I made the man to represent humanity and the ocean to represent brokenness. He is reaching to the cloud, which is God, and the sun shines through it.
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:5
I’m a positive person, and so having hope through brokenness is easy for me. The hard part is that I desire to have joy all the time, and I desire for others to feel that same joy. I try to see so much good that I can’t accept when brokenness lingers. The reality is, light coexists with darkness. Humanity is broken. But we have a God that prevails over that brokenness.
There is a cloud, beginning to swell. We receive your rain.
It’s been a hard week for me, guys. I’m not going to write a completely sunshine-filled blog post. There are clouds, and there is rain, but the sun always comes out. Bear with me.
The reality of the Fall //
Last week, our focus was to learn about creation, and how the way we create brings glory to God. Meagan led a creativity night, and we all worked for a few hours working hard on a piece of art.
On Monday night, Lauren was giving us a sermon on Genesis 3, when sin enters the world, and she told us to bring our pieces of art down with us.
She discussed how in reality, nothing is original. Because Adam & Eve took a bite of the apple and let brokenness enter the world, we believe that we are the source of our creativity. This leads to pride and a need for recognition. And this creeps into our art — we struggle to be fully vulnerable in what we create. We shame others and get shamed for not having the “best” creative abilities. We were supposed to create in freedom, but slavery to what others think is our reality.
After Lauren’s talk, she took us on a walk outside with what we had created last week. We walked down by the bonfire pit. And then she told us to throw our art in the fire.
Now, you can imagine my face when I heard this. This is something I worked for hours on. I loved that piece; I was excited to hang it up in my dorm room, to be reminded of the words it had written on it. But instead, I threw it in and watched the canvas crumble away from the frame.
Then Lauren said, “This is how God feels when he looks down on his creation.”
I felt that pain. I felt sadness for the hope that I had for my painting. I watched it burn until the canvas was gone and all that was left was the frame.
And this is how God feels. He looks down on the brokenness of humanity & all of the violence, anger, and hatred that has filled His world. He sees the beautiful canvas he painted us as withering away, until all that’s left is a frame. He knows what he made us to be, but He watches as we destroy ourselves, and all He can do is love us.
After a while, we had a little worship session to bring a bit of good into the night, as we felt the weight of destruction of our art. And it was good.
Looking at the ashes in the morning made me sad. And little did I know that the reality of the Fall would really manifest itself to me throughout the week.
Every morning, we meet in the prayer room at 7:50am. Before she prays for us, Meagan asks us what we need that day. This week, we were asking for strength, alertness, and grace for the children at camp. We were exhausted from pouring out into the kids. And that exhaustion was creeping into our relationships in the house. Though we love each other and we are growing in friendship living together, we are also growing in our faith, and that means we have to hold each other accountable.
Though there is so much love, there is so much brokenness in this house; we all have different pasts and struggles, and we are trying to overcome those together, but there have been times this week where it’s been hard to know how to move forward. My desire for positivity makes me want to fix personal problems, family sicknesses, broken pasts, sadness, anger, and so much more for other people. The Lord has been teaching me that that is not in my hands. I don’t like it, but I need to learn how to be okay with it. All I can do is love these people and let God do the rest.
We have also been learning the difference between extroversion and introversion in our little group. Some of us are quick to share and be outgoing, and others are not. I’m a part of the former, so it’s easy for me to open up, and I’ve realized this week that I struggle with understanding when someone doesn’t feel like speaking. It’s out of good intention — I want everyone to be heard — but it is also out of a lack of patience. God made us to express ourselves in different ways, and it’s hard to see life from a perspective other than your own.
Coming into this mission, I guess you could say I was pretty naive on the reality of my brokenness and the struggles of others. Maybe we’re all like that — sometimes I love the incredible goodness God brings into my life so much that I forget to embrace the bad. The truth is, the Lord doesn’t cause struggles, but He somehow brings good out of them. Though I may not know what that is yet, I am slowly starting to see that He sent me here for a reason, and that reason is GOOD. It’s all about trusting the plan.
I wanted to highlight the reality of brokenness, but I also want to tell about all of the happy experiences I’m having as well. So, on a more positive note…
Week 2 of Camp //
As we went into our second week of camp, we were EXHAUSTED. And I mean, we were really tired. We had learned five songs of our musical, and we had six more to teach in four days.
On Monday our music director was out, so I was put in charge of teaching music to the kids. It was a fun leadership experience, and I got to work on ways of keeping 40 kids’ attention at the same time (which is not easy, if you’re wondering). I helped choreograph the numbers and teach music the rest of the week, and it was a great experience.
This week was much more focused on the musical, so we had to find ways to keep the little ones interested during music time. Let’s just say that Paige and I always had to be REALLY excited to dance and sing — but it was all worth it, because when we were engaged, they were too.
Throughout the week, I grew even stronger in my relationships with the little ones in our bible study. Here are a few fun pictures of them with Blythe Anne (the owner of the property the camp takes place on) and the day when they got to chalk the tree (the best day ever).
On Thursday, we had our performance. That day was filled with a lot of craziness — we had to make sure all of the kids had their speaking parts down, their songs & choreography had to be rehearsed, and we had to prepare the stage. We got done with camp at 1:30pm and worked until 6pm painting 40 shirts by hand with a stencil.
Because I had been helping Nancy, our director, teach music and choreography all week, she had me sit up in front of the kids for the performance and do the arm movements for them. It was fun to see the kids perform up close and to see the end product of all of their work.
The musical turned out amazing and I was so proud of the kids. The best part was, after our “Barbecue with Ben” performance we got to have an actual barbecue potluck! I got to hang out with the kiddos I had spent two weeks with for the rest of the night and meet their parents.
On Friday, we had our last day of the first session of camp, and it was a water day! Fitting, because it poured outside for hours. The kids got really muddy, and they all wanted to hug me afterwards.
I am so blessed to have been a part of these kids’ lives. I am lucky that I got to learn from them and pour into them at the same time. Watching their smiling faces onstage made everything worthwhile — all of the staying after camp, putting up with screaming fits, dealing with tired little ones. These kids were so worth it.
Next session, I asked Nancy if I could lead the older kids — fourth to eighth grade. This is something I felt that God was putting on my heart to do, though it was hard for me to let go of the younger kids. I’m excited for this new challenge and what’s to come in a few weeks.
Community & New Opportunities //
We have been eating WELL. And when I say well, I mean it’s been pretty gourmet. We have a smaller group, so we’re able to cook fancier meals. Each day of the week a different person leads the cook team, and it’s so much fun.
Here are a few meals we’ve had so far:
I’m pretty proud of our cooking skills.
Support raising update! I just found out on Tuesday that I am only $125 away from my goal of $1,250. God has been so faithful in providing me amazing friends and family that support me in this mission; I can’t tell you how much that means to me. If you’ve supported me, even if it’s just in prayer, I can’t say thank you enough times.
On Wednesday, I led my first bible study ever. I was the first one to go in the group of students, so I was very nervous. I had chapters 2-10 of John, the section where Jesus performs most of his miracles, but it was a LOT of chapters. I spent a lot of time planning it and it went well — I was astonished by the way God equipped me to speak. Most of the time I was leading it felt so natural, and I knew He was with me.
Last week, the worship pastor at Hillcrest Baptist Church asked me if I would be willing to be a part of their worship team for the next few weeks — Randy had told him I served at my church at Ohio State — and he asked me if I would come to rehearsal in the coming week. It was so sweet to be worshipping with new people and a new church; I definitely missed the connection to God that I feel when I see the congregation worshipping.
Meagan took this cool picture on her Polaroid during the service. I’m in the middle!
I am especially thankful that God has been challenging me to take on new opportunities. I felt almost thrown into leading music at camp, bible study and singing in worship on Sunday, but the Lord equipped me to do so. He is teaching me so much about trusting in Him and what I’m called to do, regardless of how scared I am to take it on.
Columbus Adventures //
We got to do some pretty exciting things this past weekend!
On Friday we were pretty tired from the week of camp, and so we ordered Chinese food and watched a movie. It was the perfect relaxation night.
We woke up on Saturday and headed downtown to the Ohio Theatre, where we got to watch a collection of old cartoons! It was very nostalgic for me to watch Tom & Jerry again. And the theatre is BEAUTIFUL.
Then, we headed over to the Topiary Garden of Columbus. We had a little picnic there.
After lunch we walked around the garden for a bit. It’s very rich and well kept. AND the entire garden is based off of a painting. It’s so incredible to see a painting being transformed into something so lively.
And then Meagan and I became part of the picture.
We headed to the Bean Dinner that afternoon, which is a little festival held in Hilltop, the district of Columbus where we’re living. There’s a lot of food and garage sales everywhere. It was fun, and we got lots of new plant pots for our kitchen garden!
On Sunday, we stopped by the Columbus Art Museum! I spent a lot of time in the contemporary exhibit; it fascinates me so much when people see how to make something in such a new light. Museums in general are a very tranquil place for me; I love to walk around alone and see what new kinds of beauty I can discover in what someone has created.
I particularly loved this piece:
It caught my eye, and I stared at it for a really long time. The first thing I noticed was that the white lines form a cross, yet all of the people around it are angry and screaming and broken.
This painting to me represented the transition from the Fall to Redemption. Though the Fall is realistic and humanity is broken, I know that Jesus came to save us from our brokenness. I struggle with a lot — I’m human. But my God is bigger.
I’m excited to see what else is in store for me in the rest of these weeks. Here, the days are long yet the weeks are so short. This mission is going so fast. I love these people, I love what I’m learning, and I even have been learning to love the struggles.
The other day Paige and I spent an hour and a half replanting my plants into bigger pots so they can grow. I wasn’t planning on it, but she insisted. Halfway through I was tired and the counter was messy. But afterwards, they looked beautiful.
Today, the plants are spreading out, are greener than ever, and look as happy as a plant can look. Paige was right.
There’s always room to grow.