When God Is Quiet

Last week, I started a book study with some women attending or affiliated with the small Christian college where I received my undergrad. We’re going through the True Woman 201 group study, and I couldn’t more highly recommend it! This past week’s focus was on the need for discernment, and it was a timely lesson for me. I feel like my whole life is currently made up of large, looming decisions that need to be made.

I’m being a bit dramatic. Are we surprised? Not really.

The scary part of these decisions is that some of them are choices I have to make on my own. In the past, when these sorts of decisions have needed to be made, someone else has made them for me, or God has made it exceptionally plain which choice was best. Not so this time. In fact, rather than loudly and clearly proclaiming what my next steps should be, God has remained notably quiet.

It’s always seemed to me that life would be so much easier if God would give us each a book with all the main decision points laid out for our lives, like the one David mentions in Psalm 139:16. But that’s not how He works. Instead, He gives us His Word, with principles on how to live godly lives on whichever path we walk.

Principles, though, don’t tell you where to complete your practicum, or how many children to have and when to have them.

This is why I sometimes wish for a more clear-cut announcement from heaven on where to go next and how long to stay there. What I’m learning, however, is that when God doesn’t shout out the answers, I’m forced to well and truly listen. To seek out his voice. To be still. I said in a previous post that waiting is hard for me. Being still and quiet isn’t much easier – just ask my husband how often (and loudly) I belt out showtunes around the house for proof of this fact.

When I do force my body, soul, and mind to quiet down, I realize that even when God seems silent, He is not absent. He may not be giving me the clear-cut answers I desire, but He is giving me the strength and grace to continue to seek Him in the confusion. He’s provided me with so many wonderful sources of community as well from which to seek wisdom and comfort when I feel a bit lost. He’s also given me His Word, which is such an incredible gift when we stop to consider the vast source of information it is concerning who God is and what He expects, what He has done in the world and what His plans are for its future.

As I slow down to rest in Him, to see Him at work in the small things, and to speak with and rely on other wise and godly people around me, I see that even when I feel overwhelmed and confused, the Lord is at work. The question is, will I only allow Him to quietly work around me? Or will I quietly come before Him and allow Him to work in me, as well?

For even when it’s hard to see or understand, His hand is at work accomplishing His perfect purposes. And even when He’s quiet, God is good.

Bloom & Grow

A little over two weeks ago, my sister gave birth to beautifully stubborn baby girl. Sweet Lucy Marie chose to make her entrance on her own terms, demonstrating the strong will that had been present practically since her conception. Born two weeks early, she entered the world quickly, screaming, and with a head full of black hair.

She entered our hearts just as swiftly, though perhaps more quietly. My sister remarked to me a few days postpartum, “Isn’t it odd that it already seems like she’s always been here?” And it really does.

I was able to spend a few days with Lucy and her parents last weekend, and it was such a joy to watch the ways in which she is already developing. I pretended at being a photographer for an afternoon and captured a few photos of her sweet face, tightly-closed fingers, and stretched-out toes. My favorite part of the weekend, though, was the time I was able to spend holding her and singing my favorite songs to her. I sang quite a few hymns to her, but also incorporated a few quiet melodies from the secular sphere. On my last day with her, I rocked her in the nursery while singing Adelweiss, and teared up when I got to the lyric, “Blossom of snow, May you bloom and grow”.

I hope, little Lucy, that you do. Blossom into your own sweet, perhaps a bit stubborn, person. Thrive under the love of your parents, family, friends, and God. Bloom and grow, dear niece of mine. Bloom and grow forever.

 

Where are we going from here?

clouds countryside daylight environment

This summer has been full of twists, turns, and lots of waiting. Waiting for the next step. For a better vision of the road ahead. For some sort of plan for the future.

And let me tell you, I hate waiting.

But after a summer of waiting, of maybes, of “well we think…”, we finally have some sort of answer to give to the question, “So what are your plans?”

Where are we going from here?

In May, Zach completed his MPhil from Cambridge. (Woohoo!) Up until this past week, we thought we were heading to Durham, England, for him to begin a PhD. I had even typed out a blog post to update you with that exact information. But remember all that waiting we’ve been doing? It’s not an activity conducive to getting visa applications in on time. For over a month now we’ve been waiting for one small piece of information that we needed to continue the visa application process. We came to the conclusion this past week that due to forces outside our control, we would not be making the trek to Durham this fall, after all.

Then, because this is how our lives work, we threw a new twist in the path. Zach emailed a colleague and would-be supervisor at another school he had considered for his PhD, the University of Glasgow. Throughout the process of looking for PhD programs, this was the supervisor under whom Zach most wanted to study. He wanted to make sure he understood all of his options for the coming year before committing to remain with Durham and pushing his PhD start date to Fall 2019. He asked the supervisor if there was an option to begin a PhD at Glasgow from the U.S. and to come to Scotland to be on campus after the first year. Unexpectedly, the answer was yes!

To sum up, we thought we were going to Durham. Then we thought we would have to stay in the U.S. and wait a year for Zach’s PhD to begin. Now, we will stay here for one year and go to Scotland in the fall of 2019. When we leave next fall Zach will have completed one year of the PhD program and I will be completely finished with my own master’s requirements, which will (hopefully) make it easier for me to find work after the move. I’m excited to finish up my master’s degree and enjoy some more time with family and friends on this side of the Atlantic. Zach is excited to start his PhD, work with a great supervisor, and still have continued access to sweet tea, Southern comfort food, and the ability to go deer hunting this fall!

Because of all of these topsy-turvy transitions, I needed to revamp my blog. The Durham/Gallatin/Glasgow Wife didn’t quite have the same ring to it as my previous moniker, and I wanted a name that would resonate with each chapter of my life, even the ones to come. In thinking through this name change, my mind went to one of my favorite hymns from childhood – All the Way My Savior Leads Me. In the second verse, the hymn writer reminds us that God “cheers each winding path I tread”. If there is one adjective that describes the path Zach and I have been on for the past two plus years of marriage, winding would be it. Knowing the lives my family members tend to lead, and considering how God often moves in the lives of His children, I’d wager the paths to come will remain winding, as well.

But that’s how we grow, isn’t it? When we can’t give detailed answers to the “Where are we going from here?” questions, we have to trust that God still cheers each winding path, even when we can’t see the end (or middle, or next five feet) of those paths. We learn to lean on Him and His understanding because we can’t trust our own. We try to enjoy the scenery at each bend in the road, knowing He leads us all the way, and He’s much better at navigating than we are.

Walkin’ in Cambridge

I feel like most of my blogs, journal entries, and phone conversations often begin with the phrase, “It’s been a while.” I am not so great at keeping to structured habits, but I do at least try to fight against the opposing pulls of busy-ness and laziness that often keep me from my goals. It’s certainly a challenge.

One of the things that has been challenging me lately has been a new, regularly-scheduled task that certainly has required my time, attention, and even willingness to be uncomfortable. Since coming to Cambridge, I have been volunteering with a charity organization called Christian Heritage, who operate out of The Round Church. When I began helping out, I simply came a few times a week to the Round Church, which houses a visitor’s center, and volunteered as a “doorkeeper” – taking entrance fees, answering questions, and explaining the purpose of Christian Heritage and the exhibits. I also informed guests about the guided walks of Cambridge offered by several tour guides who volunteered at the Round Church.

Then the fateful day came when I was asked to consider becoming a tour guide myself! I gave my fourth and final walk this week. It’s been a giant step outside of my comfort zone, but great fun as well! The walks tend to take groups around the Round Church, down by the River Cam and into several of the colleges before ending up in the city center. The tours tend to take around two hours, with the main theme being the tracing of Christianity’s influence in Western culture, particularly as it relates to Cambridge through its emphases on education, humanitarian work, scientific discovery, and law and politics. There’s also a lot of talk about the Protestant Reformation, and discussion on the part Cambridge played as the birthplace of the Reformation in England.

Learning the material well enough to give the tour has been a fascinating and enjoyable experience for me, as I hope it was for the individuals who came with me on the tours. There were certainly moments when I felt completely inadequate, particularly when trying to talk about English history as an American. On the first official tour I gave, I met a gentleman and his daughter who were so kind – but the father was the British version of my dad, which meant he knew TONS of information about EVERYTHING I mentioned. I left that first walk feeling fairly defeated after being asked what felt like a million questions to which I couldn’t even begin to find an answer.

However, things have really picked up since then, and now I find great joy in giving the tours, telling people fun facts about the history of Cambridge and England, but even more importantly, pointing out the blessings we enjoy today because of ordinary (and some extraordinary) individuals realizing that their Christian faith could and should affect the world around them in tangible ways. I’ve also been reminded again and again that God uses us in spite of ourselves, and have found such peace in knowing that His strength and Spirit sustain me when I tell others about Him and His people. He has also shown me through these trying experiences that I have an incredible support system in my husband, family, friends, and fellow believers who are constantly there, lifting me up in prayer and willing to give me a pep talk over the phone when needed (I’m looking at you, Mom!).

These beautiful lessons have been reinforced in other areas of my life recently as well, including struggling to finish up schoolwork when the online class meetings, being on Eastern Standard Time, require waking up in the middle of the night. We also have some huge decisions ahead of us about where we’ll be spending the next three years for Zach’s PhD, and we won’t have solid answers on exactly what our options will be until after we’ve returned to the States for the summer. It’s difficult to think that when I come home this summer, it might mean not returning to Cambridge in the Fall. But even in these stressful, uncertain times, God has reminded me of the rest that can be found in Him and the fellowship I can have among His people. The sweet fruits of Christianity that I share with tourists on my guided walk weren’t produced solely in times of antiquity – I’m seeing the abundantly good gifts all around me, even today.

Things My Morning Run Teaches Me About Life (Part Two)

Last week, I told you all about my new running habit, and how something as simple as a morning exercise routine is teaching me important life lessons. If you missed last week’s post, you can view that here. This week, I’ll talk about the last three lessons I’ve been learning as I continue to work at this new practice.

Lesson Four: Looking ahead makes me a better runner.

The route I run keeps me on some pretty uneven pavement, and sometimes it’s hard not to spend the whole run looking at the ground to keep from falling over a loose stone. But I’ve noticed an interesting thing: when I manage to shift my focus to further down the path, I tend to feel more motivation to keep going. I can’t explain how lifting my head and my gaze can have such a psychological effect, but I’ve noticed it again and again.

This concept has played out in my spiritual life as well. It reminds me of what the writer of Hebrews said when comparing the Christian life with running a race: “…and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith…”

When I spend my days looking at all the possible things that might cause me to stumble or focusing on the difficulties and pain of this life, I can easily become overwhelmed with self-pity, worry, and frustration. However, it’s amazing the change that can occur in my heart when I lift my head, fixing my eyes a bit further down the road on Christ and what He has done for me, is doing in me, and will continue to do with me if I keep running.

Lesson Five: Joy and pain can occur at the same time.

I do not like pain. And because of this fact, I don’t really like exercise. I’d much rather have a Netflix marathon than run in one. So why do I keep at it? Because even in the pain, I have found joy. This may seem impossible, but it’s true. When I crest the final hill of my run and it times perfectly with the song I’m listening to (Go the Distance, anyone?), I feel so incredible knowing that I’m accomplishing things I never thought possible. When I feel the soreness in my muscles, I feel a bit of happiness, too, knowing that the pain means I’m getting stronger.

This paradoxical lesson is also true of life. I have experienced the truth of it in the past year, as my family experienced the death of my grandfather. The loss hurt us (and still hurts us) to the core, but we also felt inexplicable joy knowing our Papa was perfect, whole, and healthy in the presence of his Lord and Savior. We sing a song at our church here that says, “There is strength within the sorrow”, and we felt that personally. I’m so grateful to have experienced this paradox, and know that like I spoke of last week, sometimes pain shows us we’re growing, and even when that growth is undetectable to the human eye, there can still be joy in the midst of the process.

Lesson Six: I can’t get better if I don’t get out of bed.

This last lesson is one I have to repeat to myself over and over most mornings. My warm and cozy bed is so much nicer in those moments than the cold outdoors. But last week, I had to take a whole week off from running because of the snow and ice we had here in Cambridge, and let me tell you, my first day back at it was rough. I had done some inside cardio workouts during the week when I couldn’t run, and those had helped me some, but I am more sore this week than I was when I first started!

The truth is, I’d like to think that staying in bed for a day and skipping my workout won’t have an effect on my run the day after – but that’s just not true! My runs this week have been so much slower than they were before my week off, and I’ve had to really war with myself about whether or not it was absolutely required that I run to the landmark I’d set for myself rather than turning around early and trying again the next day.

The difficult truth is, change is hard work. And when we don’t put in the hard work of changing our habits and developing better ones, or put it off until a “more convenient” time, often we go backward rather than remaining at whatever benchmark we’d achieved. But the positive news is, when we get back at it, armed with the knowledge of where we were previously, we might have more motivation to more quickly reach that previous “personal best”, and even push past it. At least I’m seeing that to be true with me.

If you’re considering trying something new, or changing a habit you have, I encourage you to “get out of bed” and get out there. Learn those lessons, friends! And then remind me of all of them tomorrow morning around 7:30 am when I’m grumbling about wanting more sleep and less exercise.

Things My Morning Run Teaches Me About Life (Part One)

There is this incredible picture of me from about the third grade where I am finishing a lap in my school’s Walk/Run for Charity event. My shoulders are hunched in exhaustion, both arms hang limp at my side, and my tongue is literally hanging out of my panting mouth as I pull as much air as possible into my screaming lungs.

This picture was taken around lap 2 or 3.

The photo aptly sums up my general feelings toward all things related to exercise and particularly the beast that is running. At least, until recently. In the past two weeks, I’ve started back at a practice I’ve been (very inconsistently) attempting over the past five years or so. This time however I feel like I have turned a corner in my attitude towards running, and my chilly morning runs have, in turn, begun to teach me lessons dealing with issues beyond personal fitness. Hopefully, even if your attitude towards running is much more like third-grade Emily than my current appreciation for it, the lessons I’m learning will be applicable to you as well.

 

Lesson One: I can do more than I think I can.

Part of the reason I have hated running for most of my life, even in the times when I’ve tried to do it several times a week, is because I believed I would never be good at it. I have friends who can run a mile in six minutes (cough, cough, Zachary Adam, cough, cough), and other friends who ran competitively in high school. However, I tended to clock out after about 90 seconds of that awkward jog-walking that makes me feel like I must look to the world like an old man with debilitating arthritis. Then, a few weeks ago, something miraculous happened. I pushed through. I discovered that I could in fact keep going beyond that 90 second marker that I had set as a limit for myself, and my legs would not fall off, nor would I die from exertion.

Zach has constantly reminded me during my efforts at getting into shape, “The mind quits before the body.” I think sometimes, the mind quits before the heart, too. We convince ourselves that this task, this career, this goal is too difficult or too lofty, that we’ve maxed out, but there is so much more potential in us waiting on a bit more effort, a bit more perseverance, a bit more will to push through. For the Christian, too, this has another level in that we often limit what God wants to do in and through us because we think we’ve reached the end of our limits for growth, and we forget the extent of the Holy Spirit’s power to both strengthen and redeem.

Lesson Two: Pain can be a sign of growth.

I will not lie to you and tell you that just because I can now jog for 15 or so minutes at a time means my runs have become some sort of careless, pain-free, tiptoe through the tulips experience. False. My legs are normally very angry with me for most of my runs, and my toes do this weird achy thing for the rest of the morning. I will say that I no longer cough uncontrollably for hours after I run like I did when I first started back at running. This shows that sometimes the pain is a sign of better things to come. My lungs and heart are stronger now, better able to deal with longer stretches of exercise, and my legs are strengthening, too.

Sometimes the winnowing periods of life hurt. We experience emotional, spiritual, and psychological growing pains right along with the aching of sore, worked muscles. While sometimes pain is a sign that something is wrong, it can also be a reminder that we are getting better, stronger, and more mature.

Lesson Three: Beauty and positive thinking make difficult things more bearable.

I run a really beautiful route in the mornings that takes me along the River Cam and gives me a lovely view of several of the college backs. There’s this one point in my run where the trees clear and I get this incredible glimpse of King’s College chapel with the sun behind it. It lifts the soul. I also listen to some great music while I run to keep me in good spirits – normally it ends up being some fast-paced showtunes or Disney music, because, really, what else do you people expect of me? But when I listen to the lyrics of The Greatest Showman’s “This Is Me” or Moana’s “How Far I’ll Go” and push myself to believe that I can finish the run I started, when I let myself soak in the beauty that is Cambridge, and when I focus on feelings of gratitude that God has brought me to this place, I find it easier to focus on cresting that next hill rather than on the fatigue in my legs.

I’m going to try not to get too counselor-y here, but gratitude and positive self-talk can have huge effects on our mental health. When I encourage myself to push through the end of my run rather than telling myself to quit because I don’t have it in me, I find myself so much more capable of things I never dreamed possible (like easily running a ten-minute mile last Friday! What??). And then, because I see that I can do more than previously thought, I end up with more self-confidence and am more likely to try other difficult things that will enable me to grow further.

 

This series is not to pressure my readers into starting your mornings with a run like I do, although if you feel empowered to do so and want to talk through the stresses and successes of such a practice with me, that is wonderful! However, I do encourage each of you to find a hard thing to do and set out trying to do it. If a girl who has hated running with a passion since elementary school can take it up and enjoy it, you can tackle a difficult task, too. And who knows? Maybe you’ll learn some lessons of your own.

 

Pancakes and Pictures

For this week’s blog post, I thought I’d give a short explanation of how this week has been, but then allow my readers to see some of the sights of Cambridge. I spent two days this week playing the tourist with my camera, and it was such a nice experience to stop and try to capture the beauty I get to experience here in Cambridge. I will admit that my amateur photography could never hope to do it justice, but it will at least give you all a frame of reference when thinking about what life looks like for Zach and I here.

This week was filled with special occasions- Tuesday was Fat/Shrove Tuesday, or as they call it here in England, Pancake Day. Then Wednesday was both Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent. Zach and I did not eat pancakes on pancake day, but I did get to try some last Friday at an International Women’s Group I attend at our church. They are much more like crepes than American pancakes, and you typically eat them with lemon juice and sugar sprinkled on top. These are the traditional Fat Tuesday treat here, but I’ve heard they can be quite difficult to make, and I decided that I would just try making them next year if I were feeling braver.

For Valentine’s Day this year, Zach and I bought each other books, because that is just who we are. He got a lovely boxed set of C. S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia, and I got a boxed set of the Harry Potter series. Since these were a bit more expensive than what we usually spend on Valentine’s gifts, and since we both would rather stay in than fight the crowds on nights like February 14, we opted for a night in with homemade pot roast and brownies with ice cream. We even have leftovers! We are obviously not fasting for Lent this year. I have decided to severely limit my time on social media in general and Facebook in particular during this time, and although we’re only two days into the Lenten season, I am realizing just how often I was wasting time on my phone. Hopefully this purposeful “fasting” from social media will help me create more productive habits as it relates to my free time, and will also encourage me to consider in what ways my habits can better reflect eternal, meaningful perspectives.

And now here’s a few photos to document our Cambridge life.

Earning My Keep

“Stop trying to earn your keep.”

Tears flooded my eyes as my brain digested that statement, straight from the lips of my slightly disgruntled, trying-to-comfort-a-crying-wife-but-not-fully-knowing-why-she’s-crying-this-time husband. This. This spoke to every single one of my relationships and the anxiety I was currently feeling about all of them.

I have a confession to make. If I’m not careful, I could spend 95% of my days in a crumpled heap on the floor, letting all the mean thoughts I think about myself fill my head until I can’t remember what’s real and what’s just a big ol’ failure. However, thanks to wonderful, supportive people in my life, better thought systems, some fun things I learned in counseling in undergrad, and then just the grace and mercy of God, I live and function and only crumple into that heap on really bad days, such as the one I was having when this aforementioned conversation took place.

When Zach said this statement, it was one of those proverbial “aha” moments for me. I often feel a need, perhaps not so irrationally, to earn my keep in relationships: in my relationship with my husband, with my parents and family, with my friends, and most often, perhaps even most tragically, with the Lord.

I’m currently reading through the book of Deuteronomy as part of my Bible reading plan. In it, Moses constantly draws the children of Israel’s attention to the fact that they are smaller and weaker than the opponents they will face on the other side of the Jordan, but that this is by design. He goes further in chapter 9, saying, “It is not for your righteousness or for the uprightness of your heart that you are going to possess their land” and “from the day that you left the land of Egypt until you arrived at this place, you have been rebellious against the LORD.” Not only were the Hebrews to remember that they were smaller in number than their opponents, but to remember that there was nothing about their own righteousness or religious efforts that commended them to this task. Rather, God chose them in spite of these things to accomplish His purposes and to bring Himself glory.

I think too often we believe that we have been chosen by life, God, or others because of some innate goodness within, some sort of characteristic or strength that commends us to the tasks that lay ahead. This sort of thinking led me to feeling the need to earn my keep and to a hyper-defensive posture in my conversations with others, where harmless comments could quickly be turned into direct attacks on my own capabilities.

But it’s not my own righteousness or good qualities that led me to be blessed with as good of a husband as I have in Zachary Adam, to end up in as beautiful a place as Cambridge, to have wonderful friends and family members, or in any way to be called a child of God. Instead of focusing on attempting vainly to earn my keep or trying to impress every single person in my life, I can relish the blessings I have been given and serve each of those relationships with the joy that comes from seeing the grace in them. I can be truthful about areas in which I fail or struggle, but those failures don’t have to lead to some sort of frenzied, let’s-make-up-for-all-my-problems-by-baking-a-cake kind of attempts for perfection or even perceived perfection.

The truth is, I could never earn my keep. But thanks be to God, His mercy says I don’t have to.

New Year, Same Me

During the month of January, the general public seems to become better people (or at least individuals who think they’re better people). Many people make resolutions. Some prefer to use the word “goals”. Others choose a word or attribute to make their own and on which to reflect in the following year. Gym memberships sky rocket. Social media has picture after picture of individuals in their workout gear with the caption, “New year, new me”.

But what if that’s a lie?

To figure out if I am a different person this year, I have to examine the person I was last year. 2017 was characterized by change. Zach finished one Master’s degree, started another. We moved out of our first home and into a flat on another continent. I learned how to meal plan, and then how to do it with a tiny kitchen (for more on that adventure, see What Not Having a Stove Taught Me About Myself). In April, I said goodbye to the first of my grandparents to pass away. In November, I came home again. In December, Zach followed. We both continued schoolwork. We cried, and laughed, and walked A LOT. We said goodbye to one church family and were welcomed into another. And through it all we grew as a couple and as individuals.

But does that mean I’m a completely different person in 2018 than 2017?

If my struggles with consistently working out this January are any indicator, the answer is no.

This doesn’t mean I don’t have goals for myself for this new year. I want to blog more often. I want to drink more water, exercise regularly, and be a more organized individual (I’m looking at you, bullet journal). I want to be serious and devoted in my daily Bible reading in a way that I lacked in 2017. I want to be a better listener, both to others and to the Lord. I want to spend my time wisely and productively.

In all these goals, however, I have to continually remind myself that change doesn’t occur overnight, not even on New Year’s Eve. I will not wake up one day and stop loving chocolate chip cookies or Dr. Pepper. Habits and personality traits take time to form and exhibit consistently. So maybe I am the same person as I was in 2017. But I’m also constantly becoming someone better.

Fig Trees and Texts from Home

This past Saturday, I received a text message from my mother:

“Have daddy in ER- they are transferring him to Greenville- think he is having heart attack…”

Zach and I had gone to London for the day, and I had just paid my 50p to use the public toilet (yes, they make you pay for that here, and no, they don’t use the word restroom). And now I’m sitting in the stall, slightly hyperventilating, trying to figure out how in the world Zach can convince the worker outside that he needs to enter the women’s toilet to carry me out of there since my body seems to have stopped functioning. Somehow, I managed to pull myself together and get back to where Zach was waiting to fill him in on what was going on. He held me while I cried from the realization that England was actually quite a long way from where I wanted to be in that moment.

To quickly summarize the next few days, after several tests it was discovered that my dad did not have a heart attack, but did have two partial blockages in the artery often referred to as “The Widow Maker”. Scary stuff, but something that would not require surgery, just medication and healthy lifestyle changes. The Lord seems to have orchestrated these events to let us know there was an issue in time to fix it, and we were so grateful for His sovereignty and grace in this situation.

It’s ironic that I was visiting London on the day this all occurred, a place that was my go-to answer for years if I was asked, “If you could go anywhere in the world right now, where would it be?” Upon receiving that text, London wasn’t quite the answer I would have given if asked that question again. But we pushed through and were met with good news after our waiting.

The Sunday night after our London trip, we went to the church we’ve settled into here in Cambridge, Eden Baptist. Matt, the assistant pastor, was finishing up a sermon series on Habakkuk. It was such a timely message, and as He often does, God used His people and, even more importantly, His Word to speak to my heart in loving and convicting ways. The following verses especially resonated with me:

Though the fig tree should not blossom

And there be no fruit on the vines,

Though the yield of the olive should fail

And the fields produce no food,

Though the flock should be cut off from the fold

And there be no cattle in the stalls,

Yet I will exult in the LORD,

I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.

Habakkuk 3:17-18, emphasis added

Sometimes, even in your favorite place on earth, it’s hard to see the fig tree’s blossom. Sometimes it’s just not there. There have been times in this journey that I find myself feeling guilty over my “sad days” because, after all, Emily, this is what you wanted. This is your favorite place in the whole wide world. But sometimes, it just doesn’t feel like it. And other days (perhaps even most days), I can see the fig tree’s buds and the vine’s fruit and I am just so happy to live in this place. But whatever the morning brings to my eyes, I can still say with Habakkuk, “Yet I will exult in the LORD”, because He deserves our rejoicing, no matter where – or how – we are.