Hello friends! I just returned from an incredible twenty-four-hour retreat with Phi Lamb that has left me in a place of refreshed and renewed trust in God’s plan for my life here at Vanderbilt, after a very stressful and busy week (special thank-you shoutout to my wonderful roommate Kathryn for her patience with me!). I want to tell you the story of how that happened, during an extended time alone with God (aka really long quiet time) we had during the afternoon this past Saturday.
I hadn’t done a prayer walk in a long time, and since I’ve been missing all of God’s gorgeous creation that I got to experience so richly while I was staying in San Antonio, I really wanted that experience being back here in Tennessee, to see the riches He’s laid before me all over the world. So I set off, with headphones in my ears, my Bible in one hand and my journal in the other.
I began walking towards a pine grove on the far edge of the campground property, coming up on it from the side. Because of the direction I was walking among the trees, it wasn’t until I reached the top of a small hill that I realized there were several rows of wooden benches, set facing a wooden cross that stood upright facing the mountains in the distance. It was grey and misty out today, and when I came upon this still place, I felt so much peace. Isn’t that just like life? I trudge along, trying to make out the mist at the top of the mountain, when the cross intervenes in my muddy, wet trudge – right where I least expect it, but need it the very most. So I stopped and I sat and I bathed in the beauty of creation, because my God is so good. How terrible it was to wish to be anywhere but exactly where He has me, because grey skies have just as much beauty as blue skies if you know how to look, and the rain drops on my face are just as much products of God’s imagination as the Belizean rays of sunshine. Praise God that the same cross that anchors me in life is sitting in the yard of El Buen Pastor Church in San Antonio, and on this little hill in Tennessee! Wherever I am, I can worship the Lord.
I deliberated a moment before I kept walking – should I do some Bible study? Then I realized that God was taking me on this walk, and there was no way I could interfere with whatever truth He had to reveal to me today. What beautiful truth to continue on with.
The next place He had me stop was a small wooden climbing wall that stood in front of a little entrance into the tangle of forest surrounding the camp. Here, I realized, was the perfect place to worship.
And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.
Matthew 6:5 (NIV)
When I stood on the hill with the cross, people all over the camp could see me worship the Lord. Sometimes, however, He calls us to be with Him in the still, small places hidden where only He and I are a part of the conversation. These are the places I frequently forget to meet with God, but where He calls me to pour my heart out in the deepest ways. What an incredible reminder to make sure my worship is not focused on how others see me, but rather how my heart sees God.
Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.
Joel 2:13 (NIV)
I kept walking, and ran into my little, Christine. What a beautiful friend and example of Christ’s love and light she is to me. As we got to talk briefly about our walks so far, I was so refreshed and excited to continue on where she had been. This just reminded me of the reassurance and encouragement I can find in the community God’s blessed me with in Phi Lamb – when God becomes my Heavenly Father and I find my identity in my status as a daughter of God, I’m blessed with a whole new family of Christ-followers, including my Phi Lamb sisters, to walk the path with.
I will proclaim the Lord’s decree: He said to me, “You are my daughter; today I have become your father.
Beautiful things sometimes grow out of muddy places, like the gross, wet hill I clambered up because I could just see the bright yellow daffodils blooming at the top. As I knelt down to jot this thought in my journal, my phone suddenly went silent, and the music shut off. When I pulled it out of my pocket to see what was the matter, I saw that I had an internship offer for this coming summer. God – what proof that the rain you sent to wash me clean has made this flower bloom from a muddy place of despair!
“Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end; then stop.”
– Lewis Carroll
Sometimes – okay, all the time – God knows my limit before I do. Next on my walk, I spotted as massive rock overhang that I was itching to get on top of – I could only imagine the view of the forest that would be waiting at the edge! I’m not usually this adventurous of a person, but I decided today was about going where the Lord would lead me, and in my mind, it was most definitely on top of this slightly sketchy rock. I stepped forward, keeping my eyes on the ground in front of me. When I looked straight ahead again, a sharp-tipped black arrow was lodged in a tree about two inches from my nose. Then I noticed the barbed wire wrapped around its base and realized: God had set a very clear boundary for my safety, and this was His indication that our walk was at an end. Sometimes – okay, all the time – it’s worth it to pull out the headphones, look straight ahead, and hear God’s whispers in the world around me. As I started back to our lodge, I realized that this wasn’t the end of my walk with God, it was just a taste of what the walk could be.
As sad as I was to go, leaving Belize wasn’t an ending – it was just a turn in the beautiful story God is writing on my heart and in my footsteps. There are no endings – I know that now. Falling deeper in love with my Savior with every step – if that doesn’t make me a New Romantic, I don’t know what does.
“Come further up, come further in!”
– C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle