beauty.

my TOMS are covered in ashes and reek like smoke, but I can’t bring myself to wash them, and probably won’t for quite some time. each time I wear them, each time I get close enough to smell them, I’ll be reminded of this week. we spent Monday afternoon helping one of the nicest families I’ve ever met clean up their house and yard from the fire they experienced on Sunday.

I spent the afternoon with Julia (one of our student leaders) and Luke (one of the sons from the family), cleaning up burnt boards, piles of ash, and the majority of Luke’s belongings from the space between their house and their neighbor’s. Luke’s positive attitude throughout the afternoon was so inspiring; he (and his whole family, really) reminded me that our possessions are of this world and so very temporary. at one point in the afternoon, Luke handed me the cross pictured above. the front side is a little grayed from the ashes, while the back is quite burnt.

this cross, this small piece of beauty, was found buried in a pile of ashes. it was found among boards, clothing, sports equipment, letters and pictures, things that were tossed into trash bags without a second thought.

it reminded me of life.

we can find beauty in the big parts of life, like a trip to the Grand Canyon with a beautiful group of friends, but we tend to find beauty more often in the little things. we find beauty in clouds in the sky on a hard workout day. we find beauty in encouraging conversations with people we admire. we find beauty in the carefree laughter and joy of young children.

we find beauty easily when life is going well, when things are working out for us, when we understand the plan for our lives. but what about when life is tough, when things aren’t working out, when we have no idea what lies ahead?

my challenge to you is this: when life gets messy, strive to find beauty in the ashes.

looking ahead.

this is easily one of the hardest blogs I’ve written this summer, but alas, it must be done.

after a very long six weeks of praying and thinking and rethinking and engaging in many conversations about many different things, I’ve decided to remain in Cincinnati this fall.

I’m writing this with tears in my eyes, tears of sadness, but also tears of joy.

I’m sad to be leaving Grand Rapids, the place I’ve called home for over 20 years. I’m sad to be leaving Calvin College, the school that I thought was perfect for me. I’m sad to be leaving Beets-Veenstra, the dorm that reminded me what true community is. I’m sad to be leaving Team Awesome, the friends that kept me company on late nights of homework. I’m especially sad to be leaving my Hannahs, two of the best friends that someone could ever ask for.

but I’m also overjoyed and incredibly excited.

I’m excited to remain in Cincinnati, a place I’ve learned to love to call home (apparently “once you go ‘nati, you never go back”). I’m excited to remain a leader at Northminster. I’m excited to stay connected with and continue investing in the girls I met this summer. I’m excited to go to cross country meets this fall and to see the kids I’ve run with this summer improve in their running and fulfill their goals. I’m especially excited to see how God is going to continue to work in and through me here in this place.

there’s probably a lot more I could say, but I’m really struggling with words tonight… anyway, I’m open to any questions you may have and I’d love to talk to you about this more, if you’d like. :)

looking back.

I miss joking about cralligators and having late night talks. I miss defending the neighborhood with hockey stick “guns.” I miss being reminded that “the bird is the word.” I miss being taught how to “crank dat Soulja Boy.” I miss stressing out about our futures, not really knowing what we were going to do with our lives. I miss silly inside jokes. I miss having someone to watch awesome marching band videos with. I miss asking you to define the words you used in facebook messages because your vocabulary was far superior to mine. I miss laughing at silly jokes and using the comeback “well, so’s your face.” I miss all of these things, but mostly, I just miss having my best friend here.

the summer is coming to a close and we’ve arrived at the day I’ve been worried about for the last ten weeks. I worried that this would be too hard. I worried that I wouldn’t feel the support from my community back home, since I’m six hours away. but worrying really doesn’t get you anywhere. . . and really, there was no need to worry. my friends and I are still here for each other, looking past the distance and still remaining close.

this summer has taught me a lot and I’ve grown so much. last year, this day was difficult and I was in Grand Rapids, surrounded by my friends. this year, I’m in good ol Finneytown and still surrounded by a beautiful community, a community that has taught me that you’re family, no matter how long you’ve been around.

and it’s because of this community that I’ve been blessed with, this place that I am delighted to call home, that I rejoice. I rejoice over all of the memories I’ve made this summer and those that I will continue to make this fall. I rejoice over these people and how we’ve impacted each other. I rejoice over everything God has shown me in and through the Northminster community this summer. and I rejoice in hope for the joy that comes after the sorrow, an everlasting joy that cannot be taken from us.