Encounter Columbus: Week Four

A mentor told me this week that things look simple from a distance, yet extremely complex up close. Do you think that sometimes we stay at a distance simply because we’re too afraid of what we may find up close?

For those of you that read my last post, our mission has not necessarily just been filled with sunshine and rainbows. However, I’m learning to accept the fact that everything is not joyful all the time. This week brought a wave of sorrow as well.

On Tuesday night, one of the girls living in discipleship with us lost her father to an illness. It’s a burden she had been fighting for weeks. It’s a burden I can’t even begin to imagine having. She pulled us into our prayer room late that night and spoke the words she never thought she’d have to this soon. I looked back at her with teary eyes and she said to me, “please don’t cry.”

In that moment, I thought about how in John 11, Jesus goes to visit a friend’s tomb. Lazarus, his dear friend, has passed away, and Jesus is aware that he is able to raise him from the dead. Yet, before he does, Jesus weeps.

Why would Jesus weep if he knows everything is going to be okay?

Because he sees the anger. He sees the grief. He joins into the sadness. We have a God who is ever present with us, regardless of if we are experiencing joy or anger or grief or sadness. And there is something powerful about being where we are.

“But God” is repeated over and over again in the Bible. There is a continuous loss of hope —  but God is present.

The rest of that awful Tuesday night, we wept with our friend and sister in Christ. We read scripture. We sang worship music. Because all we could do in that moment is be present with her and meet her where she is.  And those moments bring a loss of hope. They bring a lack of understanding. Why, after all of this time, would God allow this to happen?

BUT GOD doesn’t bring the sadness. He reaps good out of the sadness.

He doesn’t cause the pain. He heals our pain.

He never leaves. He feels what we feel.

He is in the work of redeeming.

I love you, Janell. I admire you for your heart and how you look to God through these times. Stay strong.

Redemption //

After our discussions on the Fall and brokenness last week, we talked about redemption this week and overcoming our brokenness.

Redeem, by definition, is to 1. compensate for the faults of something and 2. regain possession of something in exchange for payment. To redeem is to make good of a hopeless situation. To redeem is to start over, to make new.

Randy gave an incredible talk on this on Monday night. The concept of redemption was, for the longest time, difficult for me to comprehend. I couldn’t understand what would move Jesus to give his life for me. If my brokenness was my brokenness, why would he be willing to take it on himself?

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life.” Romans 6:23

And there was my answer. God is gracious. He knew that we would forever dwell in our sin and brokenness if He didn’t send someone to show us the way. Jesus had to come and show us what true living under the Lord looked like. With the Fall, we gave up eternity and innocence. Through Jesus, we are bought back into an eternity of God’s love.

This makes its way into the art realm as well. God created us to rule over the earth, yet the Fall affected all of creation. Because of Jesus, we are redeemed and creation is being redeemed as well.

Art was supposed to reflect goodness, truth, and beauty. It should be peaceful, whole, all things working together to create something better.

I’d like to believe that the fully redeemed art realm would be free from the need for money, fame, affirmation, success, and praise. It would instead be made for a different purpose; for the glory of God, to reflect His character. Like it was in the beginning.

That’s what Jesus came to do for all things. And we are being redeemed.

BUT GOD gets me every time. Even in the midst of all of the sadness, terror, violence, destruction, depression, illness — God is there. The darkness will never overcome His light — and that’s why He sent Jesus. To show us how to be a light to our broken world.

We can start again. Unlock the potential of creation. So that He may be glorified & we may be blessed.

Redemption is a hope. Already, but not yet.

Community Outreach //

Our second session of day camp doesn’t start up again for two weeks, so we have a bit of time to plan. Because I’ll be teaching the 4th-8th graders next session, I decided to start planning my bible studies in advance so I’m not stressed during the camp off time.

On Tuesday, we helped out with a ministry called Urban Connections that aims to help further education on the east side of Columbus. We became one-on-one tutors to a child for the day. This week’s theme was ecosystems, so we read to them and did various science projects with them.

My little buddy was five years old, and her name is Cameron! She is such a sweetheart.

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Together, we planted a succulent in a jar for her to take home, and built a fish tank for the ministry house as a group. We drew flow charts of an ecosystem with chalk outside and colored for a bit. It was a blessing to get to work with these kids and see the joy on their faces during these projects! God is at work here and this ministry is doing a fantastic job.

Exploring the Arts //

Meagan has been really encouraging us to take time to make art and to figure out what kind of settings help inspire our creativity the most. She took this picture of me on Monday afternoon from her bedroom window — I discovered this beautiful area on the back porch and dragged the table over to make my own little spot for painting.

On Wednesday, we visited a botanical garden called Inniswood Metro Park. When we got there, we sat down in the rose garden and Meagan read a little excerpt from a book she’s been reading. This was a piece of advice that caught my attention;

“If you hear a voice that tells you you can’t paint, then paint & you will silence that voice.” -Van Gogh

This really speaks to me; a lot of times when I’m about to create, I have this voice in my head telling me I’m not good enough, that I won’t measure up. I have to constantly remind myself that what I create is essentially from God to silence those doubts.

We walked around the metropark, partially on an inspiration walk for what we were about to create and partially so that we could test out our photography skills. Here are a few photos I took of my wonderful housemates that I’m super fond of.

Besides taking photos of the girls, I was also taken back by the beauty of nature in this botanical garden. Meagan’s challenge to us was to pay attention to themes we saw within the natural sights, and to create something based off of those themes.

The themes I ended up with were:

raw naturality,

liveliness,

simplicity,

& the fact that true beauty does not ask for attention.

After a while, I found a spot by myself, spread out my picnic blanket, and began to create.

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This piece was made from a watercolor background, with some glued-on potpourri flowers I got from a garage sale for 25 cents.

While I was making it, I was thinking about how most pieces I create are usually vibrant with color. This one, however, isn’t. It’s filled with simplicity, and it’s made from something that’s been repurposed. These dried flowers are supposed to be in a vase, gathering dust, withering away slowly, and I used them instead to create artwork.

You could say they’ve been made new. Redeemed.

And the wonderful thing is, it was simple. I used three colors total, yet a liveliness comes out of the simplicity. Beautiful things don’t ask for attention.

Sitting in the midst of a park created by people yet filled with God’s creation, I felt a sense of tranquility. I could feel God’s presence in the chirp of the birds and the way the light filtered through the trees.

Later, we came back together and walked through again, talking about our different insights. It was the best afternoon.

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This day truly made me realize the artistic potential in a garden.

“Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads.” -Henry David Thoreau

On Thursday, Michael Thornhill visited us. He is employed by the CCO in Pittsburgh and he drove all the way here to Columbus to teach us a dance class. We got the opportunity to use a dance studio where we learned ballroom and salsa.

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Before that night, I had never thought about how dance can bring glory to God. Throughout my high school years, I loved to dance because it was a way of expression. I could put my own touch on every move. Dancing made me happy because I could be completely myself in every step; and when I partner danced, I could build off of my partner’s energy. Dancing to me is one of my favorite fun pastimes.

As we danced along with Michael, he explained the significance of what we were doing.

Dance is about listening to your partner. You have to be committed to understand how the other person connects to the dance as you connect.

In a way, life led by God is like a partner dance. He leads; you follow. But you have to listen to him to be able to follow. You have to hear His voice, to dance so that every move you make mimics His character. And when you misstep, it’s okay. He’s right there — he’ll catch you when you fall. And he’ll work your mistake into His beautiful routine.

Dancing is all about listening to and relying on your partner. In this life, our partner is God. He knows we’re not perfect, but He builds on what energy we give Him. The Lord loves to dance through life with us.

I have some pretty funny pictures of Michael & I pretending to salsa after class.

MICHAEL — Thanks for coming to our mission! You were such a good mentor and you taught us so much. Never stop dancing through life and continue to be passionate about what you do.

On Friday, we visited German Village, a beautiful little area of Columbus. The first place we went was the Book Loft, the most intricate book store ever. You could seriously get lost in there. But for literature geeks like Destiny & I, it’s heavenly.

Destiny tried macarons for the first time, and we had lots of great talks over coffee at Pistacia Vera. I don’t think we’ll ever run out of new coffee shops to visit.

After coffee, we went to a German restaurant called Katzinger’s Deli. And this was the real deal deli; the meat, bread, cheese, everything was fresh. The food was amazing — it was so much food that Meagan and I had to split a meal.

We visited a place called Frank Fetch Memorial Park — a little botanical garden in the middle of the neighborhood. It was beautiful, and yet another chance for me to try my photography skills!

I love taking pictures of these lovely girls. Meagan took a few of me as well.

Aren’t they great models though??

On Saturday, we had a rest day, so my mom & dad came up to visit me. It was very much needed time with my parents, and we went adventuring around Columbus. They took me out for lunch, a walk in the park, and ice cream — did you know there’s such a thing as rolled ice cream?

Anyways, I am so thankful to have them as a support system. Plus, they mentioned my blog posts a few times in conversation, so I know they’ve actually been reading them! BLESSED! I know it’s hard for them to have me away from home for 7 weeks over the summer on top of being gone for the school year, but they are incredible for understanding why I’m here. I love you, mom & dad! Thanks for everything. I couldn’t have done any of this without your support.

Here are a few other fun memories from the week:

On Monday morning, Mike took us out to Tommy’s, a local 50s-style diner. It was such a great time and an awesome start to the week.

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This is the wonderful ice cream place we discovered in Hilltop this week. And they serve Stauf’s coffee. Score. I will be back.

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On Wednesday morning, we woke up to a note that said “go to kitchen”. Meagan had cooked us breakfast and set up an entire picnic on the kitchen table. It was so kind and loving. She’s the best house mom.

We had a gorgeous outdoor dinner one night this week. It looked super artsy (but really, we were shoo-ing away flies the whole time).

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I’m going to end with a little chalk design Janell did on the front driveway.

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This phrase, SOLI DEO GLORIA, is something that Johann Sebastian Bach wrote at the top of every single one of his published music. Same with Isaac Newton and George Frideric Handel.

It means “Glory to God Alone.” They were signifying that everything they did was for the Lord.

I’m going to go back to what I mentioned at the beginning of this post:

Distance = simplicity,

Proximity = complexity.

Honestly, serving God looks simple from afar. I used to have this view on Christianity as something that you could choose to do a few times a week and do whatever you want the rest of the time. That is definitely not the case.

With each day I get a further glimpse of His plan for my life, and with each day it gets harder. I am called to serve the Lord with EVERY aspect of my entire life. This requires an acceptance that I do not fully control my life, an understanding that what I do gives soli deo gloria, glory to God alone.

When I decided to commit my life to Christ, I was making a promise that I would find to only get harder to keep. I am human. I am broken. It looks simple from afar to say “this difficult thing is happening, but God’s got it under control.” When I get in close proximity to the complexity of this life, even though I am walking with God, I want control over it. But I am not the one with the plans.

God says “draw near to me and I will draw near to you.”

Though it’s a challenge, He wants us to be in close proximity. He does not desire for us to take a back seat. He wants us to declare a solid “YES” to Him. And when we honor the Lord, He honors us. In the midst of brokenness, He provides a life of pleasure, passion, and joy.

I am being redeemed. And every second of this life is worth it.

 

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