Adventure & Aspen Trees

LetmebeyouradventureI’ve become a bit of a rambling soul. I think the last several months worth of posts serve to prove that point.

In just the last year I’ve been to eight new states, which translates to me having seen thirty of the fifty United States in my relatively short lifetime.

I know that God has created me to be hungry– hungry for more depth, more adventure, more knowledge, more of Him– as I said in my very first post on this site almost two years ago.

And for that hunger, I am eternally thankful.

It partially pleases me that I’m a hungry rather than a content person because to be entirely honest with you, becoming a content person scares me a wee bit.

In my mind “contentedness” has always equaled an ungrateful heart or a heart that has said, “Welp, that’s enough,” and stopped seeking more, regardless of what that more looks like. I don’t know where the connection came from but contentedness seems like settling to me… and settling seems like stopping the adventure and the life giving joy of the more. Yuck. Who would want that?

But if there was one thing that God taught me on my journey to the bush of Alaska, (one of my ultimate bucket list adventures and by far the traveling highlight of my summer) it was that I can be content in Him because He is my More.

When I am walking through life with Him by my side, God becomes my greatest adventure, my source of joy, knowledge, and depth.

Hiking Mount Tanalian and flying in a tiny 2-seater airplane were both thrilling, yes. But those moments were simply moments, which have now turned to memories: I will always treasure them, but I have become keenly aware that I will never be able to fully re-experience them.

This summer, God has taught me that destinations are just destinations, but walking with Christ is the adventure and journey that has never ceased nor stopped filling my heart with butterflies and joy in the almost eight years that I’ve been walking with Him.

So, for those of you who have asked me the inevitable question that I get asked anytime I get gung-ho on one of my adventures, no. I’m not moving to Alaska either. (Although I definitely wouldn’t be opposed to living in all that beauty at some point. *ahem, God I know you’re listening…*)

Nope. I’m not moving to Alaska and I have officially said no to Texas. So, I‘m putting down roots in Denver.

I don’t know exactly what that looks like right now, but I do know that I have signed a lease and have committed to making this beautiful city my home for another year.

And in true God fashion, once I began to loosen my white knuckles off of grad school and that mis-adventure, He began to open wild amounts of doors for the TeenMOPS program and an art therapy program that I’ve been dreaming of starting up at the Denver Street School this next school year.

So no, as I said two posts ago, I don’t have a plan, but He does and after weeks of wrestling with that fact, He has given me a stupid amount of peace to be able to trust in Him for what lies ahead.

Actually instead of a plan, I continue to have the vision of the beautiful Colorado Aspen trees in my mind’s eye every time I think about where I’m headed in life.

aspens

After doing a ridiculous amount of research about trees, I learned that the Aspen’s roots grow shallowly under ground– just deep enough to keep it stable and receiving the nutrients that it needs to thrive, but shallow enough to where God can scoop ’em up and move them about in times of avalanche or transition without causing much harm to the tree itself.

The other beautiful and unique thing about these shallow roots are that they spread for miles and become interconnected with others over time. As new trees grow, they link roots with their neighbors and shoot out their own little tree sprouts sporadically.

These little tree communities share resources, grow together, and even change their pigments all at once in the fall, creating the gorgeous Autumn colors that so many flock to Colorado to see.

After reading all of these weird tree facts, I don’t think that it is a coincidence that I have wandered into such an absolutely amazing community here in Denver over the last year; between Scum of the Earth and Park Church, I am overwhelmed by the amount of people in my life that bear the image of Jesus and share His Love.

I can’t wait to see how God intertwines my roots with those of the beautiful people that He has already placed in my life and those who I have yet to meet. I pray that all of the little communities that I am so blessed to be a part of would continue to shoot out roots into our city and share our resources with those in need.

I pray that an unprecedented number of young men and women would come to find healing and Love through the redemptive power of Christ at the Street School this next year.

I pray that the colors of our city would change to become more vibrant and that people would see the stunning change that can occur when just one small group falls in love with God and trusts Him with their entire lives…

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.”

(Jeremiah 17:7-8)

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Living in expectation(s)

Having two weeks off from work has been an incredible blessing. Considering the fact that it is the holidays, I have also gotten to spend an unusual amount of time with my family. As I’ve mentioned before, I come from a HUGE family with siblings, aunts, uncles, and cousins spread all over the state and country– people who typically don’t spend holidays together, but this holiday season has been different. Because I finally walked in my teaching license commencement a few weeks ago, I have been blessed to have the majority of my family in town at some point over my winter break, which has meant a ton of coffee dates and late night chats in our pajamas.

I love spending quality time with my peeps, but this time around I noticed that something is different in my life– something noticeable and big and sort of scary… kinda like the proverbial elephant in the room that was repeatedly unleashed when a family member would pepper me with the questions that every single 20-something year old woman dreads: “So, do you have a boyfriend yet?” “Now that you’re finally done with school, have you started looking into buying a small house?” “Are you thinking of moving home to Pueblo or staying in Denver?”

You see, I come from a rather traditional Hispanic family– one where the expectation is that once you are done with your schooling (I have learned that “done” is an incredibly relative word, typically meaning once you have finished your Bachelor’s) you pack your bags and move home to be near your family in the small town where they are rooted. And for years and years, I wanted to follow that expectation; I wanted to move home and help start a Street School in Pueblo. I wanted to find a little house in my family’s neighborhood where I could watch my cousins grow up, where I could be near the side of my family that I see so infrequently, where I could learn to cook from my aging grandmother… I don’t exactly consider myself a “people-pleaser” but after being asked these same questions over and over again, I realized that part of me wanted to live up to these expectations and please my family.

But then there is the other part of me, the part that is independent and ready to go where ever God is calling me to go. The part that typically takes control of me and leads me about my daily life. After a few seconds of sadness that I wasn’t living up to my family’s expectations for my life, this part of me would regroup and I would respond to the boyfriend inquiry with a cheerful, “Nope” and the moving questions with, “I’m actually thinking of moving to Dallas and then maybe to a jungle or desert on another continent after I’m done with my Master’s Degree to work with refugees and assist with Bible Translation instead of coming home.” After that last sentence I could feel the room turn uncomfortably silent for what felt like a few decades, but what I’m sure was only a few seconds at most.

After the pause and some awkward squirming, my family’s overwhelming response was something to the tune of, “Oh, well maybe you’ll meet a nice boy before then and settle down.”

This is where my teaching training came in handy because as my mouth smiled and said, “Yeah. Maybe,” my brain was screaming, “AHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!”

Maybe I’m just crazy and stubborn, (Okay, I’m definitely crazy and stubborn.) but I don’t want to “settle down” right now. And I am tired of my culture telling me that there is something missing in my life. I am sick of being told that as a young, single, Christian woman, I am incomplete until I have a boyfriend that I can marry, buy a cute little house with, and then fill said cute house with cute little children.

I am sick of it.

Last time I checked, I have a brain, a heart, two eyes, two ears, a mouth, and four functional appendages; I’m not incomplete. I am a whole freaking human being! And finding a boyfriend or moving back to the little town I came from won’t make me any more or less of a human being.

Okay, let me hop off my soapbox and get to the point here…

Last week, I met up and had coffee with a dear friend who is not only in the same(ish) stage of life as me, but whom God is also calling to move outside of her comfort zone and into nations on the other side of the world. As Kathryn and I were chatting, she expressed many of the same frustrations that I have been feeling and how she, upon being called to Rwanda for the next several months to do ministry through her photography, felt guilty for not fulfilling her own family’s expectations of her.

She explained that she had Skyped with her home church’s pastor months ago, and had expressed these feelings of guilt with him. After listening to her mixed feelings of wanting to go where God was calling her, but not wanting to disappoint her equally traditional family, he said some of the most simple, but sage words of wisdom that I have heard in a long time.

“You’re forgetting that God created everyone differently. Not every woman was created to pay a mortgage.”

As she repeated this story to me, all I could think was, Duh! How had I missed this? How had I forgotten that I am not my cousins or aunts? And that because I am different, I am not called to the same things.

For some reason, there was something so freeing about those nine words. For days I repeated them in my mind. Not every woman was created to pay a mortgage. Not every woman was created to pay a mortgage.

These words have reminded me that no, I’m not defective for being a content single woman who doesn’t currently want to be tied to a house with a white picket fence. Nor am I strange for wanting to move out of my comfort zone here in America to the other side of the world some day instead of “settling down” and buying a tiny house here in the States.

I am called, as is Kathryn, as are you. Maybe we’re not called to the same things, but we’re all called to something, be that singleness, married life, to live in the U.S., Rwanda, Germany, or Lebanon… We are different and therefore differently called; what a novel concept!

And who knows, maybe God will drop an adventurous man into my life sometime between now and then, but maybe not. Maybe I’ll get to partially fulfill my family’s expectations for my life and have a cute little family overseas someday, but maybe not. Slowly, I have begun to realize that at the end of the day, none of these things matter. The only thing that genuinely matters is God and that I follow Him and His expectations for me.

So for now I am learning to be genuinely content with where God is placing me instead of living under the thumb of the burdensome expectations of my culture or well-meaning loved ones. It might not make me popular with my family come the next holiday, but I have no doubt that God will work that out when the time comes. He always does…

What has God called you to? Will you follow Him or will you let the expectations placed on you hold you back?

“Are you bound in marriage? Do not seek to be free. Are you free from marriage? Do not seek to marry. I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried [wo]man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 7:27,32)