Here With Us

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them light has shown…” ~Isaiah 9:2

“And He will be their peace.” ~Micah 5:5a

I occasionally have theses paradigm-shifting moments where I realize that if I fully realized the impact of a certain reality, my whole mentality would shift.

Yes, I realize that was confusing, but read it again and I promise it makes sense.

Last night (Christmas Eve), I pondered what we are actually celebrating– yes, what most people clichely refer to as “the true meaning of Christmas.”  I’m not here to rant about consumerism or bash how Americans don’t understand the Christmas story.  I’m here to acknowledge that I tend to numb that nerve that connects the word “Immanuel” with what that actually means for my actual life as a 21st century American.

The infinite God– YAHWEH, the Creator of the whole universe who always was, always is, and always will be– decided once at the beginning of time to create me.  And you. And He knew full well that you and I would choose sin time and time again.  Even though He had every right to justly send us straight to hell, He decided that He wanted to come here.

He wanted to not just save us from our sins, but He wanted to meet us right where we are at.  I think that’s one aspect of the Christmas story that we tend to under-emphasize or just completely miss– He came as a baby so that He could look us in the eyes as Someone who understands what it means to be a human.  He has experienced the struggles, He knows the pain of watching someone die.

All because love meets you right where you’re at.

So what does this mean for me?  For my life today?

So often I revert to this almost deistic state– and I think this mindset pervades much of Christian America, especially regarding Christmas.  God is this distant– albeit omnipotent– Being that provides a moral compass, a backbone for statements like “Don’t worry! God’s in control!”, and an assurance of salvation.

Hence, stagnant, lukewarm American Christianity is born.  I want to acknowledge here that I fall into this category frequently– I’m calling myself out as much as anyone else.  I, too, pull the 1 minute prayers before bed and the mindless devotions, all while gushing, “Wow, Jesus is so good!” at Bible study and at church on Sunday.

But Jesus didn’t come down to Earth as a baby to just save us– He came to be WITH us.  He didn’t go through the perils of being a human just for the heck of it.  And honestly, He didn’t have to come as a baby.  He could have saved us from our sins and died on the cross without going through 33 years of humanhood.  Yet He chose to.

We serve an intensely personal God, a God who wants to know Him on the same level that He knows us, His greatest masterpieces.


So why am I not passionately and recklessly pursuing Him?


We’re Not Belle– or Wonder Woman

“True, that he’s no Prince Charming, but there’s something in him that I simply didn’t see.”  ~Belle, Beauty and the Beast

“Jamie has faith in me. She makes me want to be different, better.” ~Landon Carter, A Walk to Remember

Behind every little girl exists a fairytale heart.  Girls exist in all sorts of extremes in this area, but I don’t think I’ve ever met a little girl whose eyes don’t light up at the thought of being a princess.

I am a self-proclaimed princess wannabe.  I spent a large portion of my earlier childhood playing dress-up with sparkly clothes and went to church wearing a tiara until I was 7.  Then, when those antics were no longer socially acceptable, I turned to reading books about English royal history, turning over in my head what it would be like to be a real live princess of England in the days of the Tudor monarchy.  And then my junior year of high school, I was the only adult-ish female present not chaperoning a young girl at the Princess Party on a Disney cruise.  I’m actually obsessed.

Anyways, princess confessions aside, although I find this princess desire common to most females generally a good thing, I have grown to realize its many dark angles.

My own life has exhibited one of these dark angles clearly– and I never even noticed it until just recently.

Why do we love the story of Beauty and the Beast so dearly?  Of all the Disney Princess movies, this one will always stick out to the Western world as being timeless and just perfect.

I have a hypothesis about this: I believe we are so chronically enchanted by this story because we women want to change “him”– whoever that may be.

The Beast is so horrible and repulsive, and yet Belle is able to soften his angry and selfish heart.  All she has to do is enter his life, and she pierces through his harsh exterior, eventually transforming him into a handsome prince– the man he was “always meant to be.”

Sound familiar?

“He’s an amazing man, deep down.  I just need him to show it more.”

“I know he has his problems, but he’s actually a good guy.”

“I know I can change him.”

Women utter these statements so frequently.  We all seem to think we can be a combination of Belle and Wonder Woman and extract that amazing man from his scuffed package.  We watch more “real-life” movies like A Walk to Remember and see how just Jamie’s very existence makes Landon want to be a better person and believe that we, too, can motivate a man to be better just by being our lovely selves.

And then, because we are in real real-life, he doesn’t change.

He still drinks heavily or still has his addictions or still won’t focus on his faith.  Perhaps, he exhibits a temporary life change that gives us a false sense of hope, and then he resorts back to his old self.  It was all transitory in the end.

I think every woman has this instinctual urge to fix that which we see that is broken– and this is actually such a beautiful thing.  We want to spread our beauty throughout the whole world and throw flower petals to everyone who will catch them.  We believe enough in our ability to be the valiant warrior princess and get our hearts ripped out in the process.

We fail at changing him, and then we tell ourselves, “I wasn’t enough.”

And then this becomes a source of major shame.

But what if he was never yours to fix?

I’ve been quite introspective lately, and I have realized that I am the epitome of someone with a chronic “saving complex.”  It took my pastor at school telling me this to actually realize that I am becoming the woman my mom always warned me not to be– the idealistic woman who will never give up on him.  The woman with an absent or even abusive husband trying to raise three kids while he still sorts through his demons.  Since my pastor pointed this out about me, I have realized that I have been this way with so many guys, whether they were friends or more to me.  And then I walk away feeling dejected and with a scar of “you weren’t enough” carved into my brain matter.

Tonight, I read a bit of a book I read two summers ago, and I came across a portion of a sentence that I actually have memorized.  It used to be written on a notecard and placed on my desk.  Clearly, I stopped taking it to heart, as it reads:

“Just because something breaks, or comes to you broken already, doesn’t always mean you should script yourself an invitation to go on and fix it.” ~Hannah Brencher Sheats, If You Find This Letter (pg. 144) [emphasis added]

When Eve fell in the Garden, she encoded in our spiritual DNA the tendency to sin in the areas where we possess the most good.  As women, we have so much to offer the world– and so much that is unique to being a woman.  Our desire to fix him and spread our beauty throughout all of creation is such a magnificent desire– but what if we extend ourselves an invitation to fulfill this desire in areas in which God has purposefully not sent us one.

Ultimately, you nor I cannot save him– only GOD can.  No matter how perfect and enchanting we are, we cannot be Belle.  We cannot be Jamie.  We cannot even forgo the sweet approach in favor of the Wonder Woman alpha-girl style of saving the day.  We will fall flat on our faces in failure every time.

So maybe we need to end up staring straight at the concrete with scrapes on our elbows and knees a few times before we stop inviting ourselves to save the day.

After all, it’s God’s job to save him, not our’s.

I’ve committed to taking a step back every time I’m tempted to swoop in and save the day.  If he’s a friend, he’s not mine to worry about.  If he’s more than that, he shouldn’t be more than that.  Even if he tells me he needs me by his side to change, how can I in good conscience allow myself to get in God’s way of saving him by trying to do it myself?

Like I said before, I’m a chronic saver, so this is going to take some major self-control and probably a lot of tears.  I’m re-training my brain to believe the truth– that his choices are 100% his and I have not business trying to change them.

But, in the end, it’s not my fault.  It’s not my responsibility.

We aren’t meant to be Belle.  We are meant to be Cinderella– to find our Prince Charming who is already all he is meant to be.

Introspective on Father’s Day

Today is, of course, Father’s Day, and unlike most Father’s Days of my life, I am weirdly introspective.  Well, I suppose “weirdly” is not an accurate way to put it, as I did not feel this way until I listened to my pastor’s sermon at church.  He took this day as an opportunity to speak to the men of the crowd and A) call them out on their complacency and submission to normal culture and B) implore them to submit more to the LORD rather than just to “try harder” as being more “perfect” men.

So, obviously as a female, this may seem to apply very little to me, but I realized through the sharp ache in my heart during most of the sermon that this message actually applies to me on so many levels.

I realized that almost no man in my life possesses these attributes.  Now, before I go on, I want to say that I’m not trying to rip on every guy I know.  Some guys I know might be the epitome of this God-fearing man and I just don’t know it because I’m not close with them.  And those guys who I am close with and I don’t see this attributes in, that doesn’t mean I’m calling you a horrible person or trying to push you down.  Right now, I just need to process how I feel realizing that I see such a lack of these integrity-filled men in my life.

I am only 21, but I already feel absolutely worn-out by how little I see men lead nowadays.  Maybe it’s partially due to the push for feminism or maybe men are just getting lazy, but as a Christian woman, I want to be led and guys aren’t doing this.  As much as I have recognized that I have a “saving complex” and that causes me to be drawn to people with rough pasts who are just clawing their ways out of them, I’m absolutely exhausted of being the person trying to make a guy, whether a friend or more than that, into a person who pursues the LORD willingly and unabashedly.

I know, it’s a bit of a contradiction that I have this innate desire to fix people, yet I want to find men who are already there.  Men who will admit they don’t have it figured out and are so freaking fallen, yet who pursue the LORD with a ubiquitous zeal that makes some people uncomfortable and others also want to submit to the LORD.  I’m sick of being the leader– yes, assertive, Type A Annika just said that.  I’m sick of stepping back and trying to motivate and entreat men to look to step up and pursue Him.  I want to be surrounded by men who are already there, who push me to be a woman who submits to Him every single day.

I believe Christian women, at their very core, desire to be led.  However, we– especially the Type A ones– are not going to allow men to lead unless we see them as fit to lead.

And I’m exhausted.  I want to play the role the LORD designed me to play.

So, I guess on this Father’s Day, I just want to find more men that allow me to do exactly what God designed me to do.


21 life rules

I stole the idea of creating a number of life rules for myself equal to the number of years that I’ve been alive from Hannah Brencher Sheats, one of my life inspirations.  She stole the idea from someone else, but I’ll give her the credit (see her blog) and then she can give the credit to the person who actually deserves the credit.  These rules are a reflection of what I’ve learned recently about life and who I aspire to someday become.

I started writing these for myself, and then I realized they actually could be considered 21 pieces of advice to girls entering college, so I figured I would post them for your entertainment or perhaps your edification.  Or maybe you can just learn more about me.  Whatever it is, I hope you enjoy.

  1. You have everything you need inside you or at your disposal that you will need to do whatever God tells you to do. It’s OK to be nervous and afraid—in fact, it’s good because it makes you utterly human.  But don’t let those nerves overcome you but instead ask yourself, “But what if you fly?” 
  2. Listen to moving movie soundtracks whenever you A) need inspiration, B) need to focus and people around you won’t shut up, or C) want to experience your emotions fully. (My go-to’s are The Imitation Game, Schindler’s List, and—don’t hate me—The Titanic.  So I suppose this list demonstrates that I love Benedict Cumberbatch [true], am morbidly obsessed with tragedy [half true—I am very intrigued with the psychology behind evil, such as how Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler managed to manipulate as many people as they did] and into sappy romances [sadly, very true].  Or, this list could suggest I have great taste in music, so give them a listen!)
  3. He/she isn’t yours forever. People—whether boyfriends or best friends or just your average friend—come into your life for a season.  In fact, 95% of the people in your life, even the people who seem like lifers, are only in your life for a short period of time.  Release your grip and let go when it’s either A) they want to go or B) it’s time for them to go.
  4. To go along with #3, realize that many people will claim to be “lifers” in your life. Boyfriends and best friends are the usual culprits here.  Remember that most people will say anything to feel secure.  Either that, or they are completely un-self-aware.  Realize that a promise of forever means very little unless it is from one of those rare extraordinarily steadfast people or made during marriage vows.
  5. Take a full month off of life if you can. Tell people “no.” I just spent the whole last month at home doing almost nothing that has to do with school or my constant pursuit of getting into medical school.  The only way to completely de-stress is to take a month away from everything.  Some people don’t have this luxury, but if you do, take it.  It’s worth it.
  6. Look nice more often! Most people are more productive when they dress well and put a little effort into their appearance.  I’m not saying to take a Kardashian amount of time getting ready, but getting up 10 minutes earlier for a little mascara and a casual dress can turn exhaustion into productivity very easily.
  7. Go to Walmart whenever you’re invited. Ok, I know that may make no sense to someone who isn’t a college student in Aberdeen, SD, but only good memories can be formed when you go with a random group of fellow sleep-deprived students to a place where anything goes.  And make sure to wear your fluffy Frozen Elsa PJ pants and oversized hot pink Split Rock Lighthouse sweatshirt while you’re at it.
  8. Write it all down. I have never regretted writing my thoughts, no matter how crazy, out by hand in a journal.  Those thoughts, no matter how fleeting or seemingly transitory, reflect a time in your life that deserves to be remembered and actually may illuminate what choice you should make later in life.  Stay up at extra hour and be sleep-deprived the next day if it means you pen your thoughts.  It’s always worth it.
  9. Apply for everything you’re remotely interested in. Whether that be a summer research program, a scholarship, a job, or a Fulbright, as cliché as it sounds, the worst that can happen is the same thing that would happen if you didn’t apply.
  10. Learn to take delight in and laugh out loud at your mistakes. I did a couple really stupid things this last school year, and usually I beat myself up about them late at night when I’m trying to fall asleep.  But last night, I was thinking about the situation one of those mistakes put me in, and that situation is one of the few times that I lived all-out-crazy-no-regrets in my life.  For the first time, I started laughing to myself about how fun it was.  I can’t change my past mistakes, so why not take joy in the side effects that are now great memories?
  11. Eat homemade tater tots whenever life gets hard. They feel like comfort food but are really not bad for you because they’re baked instead of deep-fried and are made of almost 100% potato instead of 98% preservatives like the ones at restaurants—and they’re only $4 for a giant bag at Walmart.
  12. When you feel the need to control a situation or a stupid person, focus on controlling your own response. This is more for Type A people (i.e. me) than anyone else.  I have really struggled throughout college with trying to control both people and situations that aren’t mine to control, and recently I realized that this desire is actually good.  I just need to channel it into controlling myself—and that can take the form of controlling just simple aspects of me, down to just my breathing.  I was really frustrated Saturday night with someone, and I felt the urge to control control control, so I just concentrated on the rate of my breathing.  That helped me to feel in control of the whole situation, and I handled it better than I normally would have.
  13. He’s not yours to save. The best way to describe this is via lines from Sarah Kay’s poem, titled B: “Don’t keep your nose up in the air like that.  I know that trick; I’ve done it a million times.  You’re just smelling for smoke so you can follow the trail back to a burning house, so you can find the boy who lost everything in the fire to see if you can save him.  Or else find the boy who lit the fire in the first place, to see if you can change him.”  You can’t save him, you can’t change him—and it’s not your responsibility to.  His choices aren’t your fault, they aren’t a result of your failure to be “enough,” and don’t let him tell you they are.  It’s not your fault.
  14. You are never a victim, so stop acting like one. You have a choice in how you respond to everything around you.  Yes, you have your initial involuntary influx of emotion, but once that passes, just like he has his choice in #13, you have your choice.  Don’t you dare act like you don’t.
  15. Have an idea of what you’re doing in the future with a few rough blueprints, but don’t plan too much. Set yourself up to successfully make any of those blueprints a reality and then diligently and strategically ride the waves until one of those can become a reality.
  16. Spend as much time with family as possible. Parents get cooler the older you get.  Snag any moments you can with them, and make sure to go to your 12-year-old brother’s baseball games when you’re home (and walk away and go for a quick walk to blow off steam when you get too competitive and want to yell at the kids and/or ump—they’re only 12).
  17. Create a prayer corner where you can literally get on your knees and write out your big prayers. Tape those big prayers on the walls in your little corner and read them whenever you are struggling in your faith or life—you’ll be amazed at how faithful God is by reading them.
  18. Say no to frivolous expenses so you can study abroad and travel. I have failed epically at this, so this is a new rule for me as I go into my senior year of college and plan to study abroad the summer after.
  19. If you hate doing something you once loved, wave goodbye to it, even if it was a lifelong dream. You aren’t letting yourself down by doing this, you are actually loving yourself more fully.
  20. Consistently read poetry. Read modern stuff and old stuff and in-between stuff.  My favorite modern poets include Tyler Knott Gregson, Lang Leav, Sarah Kay, and Mary Oliver.  John Donne and George Herbert are great oldies.
  21. Don’t believe him. If he, whoever “he” is for you, told you (whether through actions or words or connotations) that you aren’t enough, that you aren’t beautiful, that you are too much, that you will never be truly loved, that you aren’t worth loving, don’t believe him.  For me, that “he” isn’t a father or even an ex-boyfriend, but another guy from years ago.  Make sure he doesn’t win.  Don’t believe a single second of it.  Don’t waste a day of your life even sifting through what he said to see if there’s any truth to it.  Just don’t. As Warsan Shire puts it in her poem “For Women Who are ‘Difficult’ to Love,” “You are terrifying and strange and beautiful something not everyone knows how to love.”   



Writing Indicted Me

If you’re reading this for a snippet of talk about God or a good read, stop right now.

I want to write right now, but I can’t.

My head is pounding, my eyelids puffed up, and every time I eat my body treats the food like a foreign substance.

Yet, I know I need to write.  Writing has been my outlet for processing for many years now.  It translates the throbbing thoughts of my brain into clear, tangible reality– reality that I can address, that I can do something about.

I know something is very different, though, when it takes me 3 minutes to write one single, easily-constructed sentence– and it still uses passive voice.  Is it possible that I am too far gone for even writing to help?

Life changes a lot in a week, huh?  I always used to say that to myself, but I am still surprised when it happens.  Maybe I can find hope that this will all change in a week.  It’s not true, though.

One of my roommates said to me today, “The old Annika would be absolutely dying right now.  You must finally realize that you deserve better.”

I am dying right now– I’m just hiding it better.  I laid in bed for an hour this morning trying to get myself to stand up (luckily, I woke up before my alarm, so it didn’t matter).  I’m not ok–  I’m just not externally dying.

The saddest part of this is it was my words that indicted me.  Me just trying to process the normal turmoil that pulses through my INTJ brain became evidence against me.

None of this writing is coherent, but I need to stop writing.  It’s not helping.




Don’t you love when God takes verses that you have heard a million times and then has you reread them after He gives you a fresh pair of glasses?

I sure do.  And tonight, He gave me that– actually, he is still giving me that, even as I write, because writing has always been my primary mode of external processing.

What verses sent me into this mental tizzy?  Interestingly, it was a story found in Luke 18 that I have generally regarded as biblical cliche (I am a horrible person for labeling any verses as this now that I think about it…)– the story of Jesus talking to the rich young ruler.  This guy had everything in his present life, but he realized that there’s more to life than what is here on earth, so he asked Jesus how he could inherit eternal life.  Jesus answered,

“One thing you still lack.  Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”

~Luke 18:22

Ok, so I have heard this story, like, a thousand times in my lifelong career at church and 7 year career at Heritage Christian Academy.  Until tonight, I have glazed over them, thinking, “Of course, yes, we are supposed to give up everything we have for Jesus.”

Yes, God, I will sell my nice clothes and use the proceeds to sponsor an orphaned child.

Yes, God, I will donate my time every week to volunteer as a Sunday school teacher for adorable yet annoying kindergartners.

But wait…what about my expectations for my life?  No, God, those are mine!

I may not be monetarily wealthy (poor college student, you know), but I am extremely wealthy in how God has gifted me.  Now, before you call me cocky, I believe everyone is wealthy in their own way, whether it be in their ability to show compassion or their artsy-ness or how much weight squat.

For me, it’s my brain.  I feel like most people who know me recognize that, and that has caused me to put a lot of my value in its abilities.  Since it got me recognition from a young age, I learned early on to use it as a tool for my own glory.

So, naturally, as a Christian, I need to lay it down and use it to serve Jesus, right?

Yet, I have been through the whole “lay down your life plans for Jesus and do what He wants for your life” conundrum already back in high school.  I gave up my dream long ago to be a Nobel Prize-winning scientist and instead be a medical missionary in Morocco.

Isn’t that enough?  I already altered my whole freaking life plan for You, God.  That was a catabolic explosion in my life.  What more could you be asking for?

The kicker is that I have a lot of time until being a medical missionary will become a reality.  I still have to finish my undergrad AND go through medical school AND complete my residency.  So, in that period of time, I have a lot of opportunities to glorify myself.

Which, by the way, I love doing.

And, you know, my brain is the tool that gets me that glory.

I love when people talk about how smart they think I am.  I love when I win a research competition or submit a research publication that gets accepted.  I love when my boss at Caribou tells regulars that she has a smart volleyball girl who works for her and comes up with awesome trivia questions that people can’t answer (ok, I know, the fact that people can’t answer my trivia questions giving me pleasure is extremely nerdy…).

So I start to milk my brain’s abilities– and take the credit for the results, when credit is actually due to God.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I still have every intention of following God’s call to be a medical missionary in Morocco; however, I have run astray in the path towards that goal.

I have turned Morocco into something to brag about.  When I am with Christians and get asked what I want to do with my life, I highlight the fact that Morocco is a restricted nation for Christianity because it gets me the “Wow, you are so strong in your faith to love God enough to spread the Gospel when you could go to jail for it” reaction.  Then, when I’m around academics, I highlight that I desire to obtain an MD/PhD degree before I practice medicine in a third world country.  I talk about how my research this year’s success has led me to this decision to try to get a PhD degree, too– a great way to throw my research success into a conversation.

See, God, I am still following Your call for my life.  I’m just milking every moment of the journey until then for MY glory.

Remember when I mentioned the catabolic explosion of God telling me to go to Morocco and be a medical missionary and scratch all my life plans?

That’s what He is talking about when He says in Luke 18:22, “Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor…and come, follow me.”

First, let me define catabolism (side note: my spell check is trying to tell me that “catabolic” is not a word, and it definitely is…it’s driving me nuts…).  According to Bing dictionary, catabolism is “the breakdown of complex molecules in living organisms to form simpler ones, together with the release of energy” or “destructive metabolism.”  In biology, an example of a catabolic reaction is when the enzyme lactase breaks down lactose into glucose, a simpler sugar that can be easily metabolized (which my body cannot do– hence, lactose intolerance).

I need another spiritual catabolic reaction.  When God broke me down from the girl who believed she was all that and could do whatever huge thing she wanted with her life for her own glory, He made me into someone smaller– in a good way, in a way that made me put Him first.  And, the thing about catabolic reactions is that they release energy.  That energy that Him breaking me down from a self-absorbed dreamer to a God-obsessed strategic planner spread to others around me.  It fueled my entire life.

Here I am now, lacking that very energy.

God needs to break me down again, to work the wonders of spiritual catabolism on my life again.  I cannot keep wasting my life by using it to gain recognition for others until I have my MD/PhD and can finally go to Morocco.

God, I beg You, please do it.  Help me to “sell all that I have” and view it as nothing and realize I am small and insignificant without You.

And make that energy that is released from this reaction so explosive that it not only fuels my life but shakes everyone else’s worlds.




Spiritual Anorexia

Last night, God changed my life.

No, I am not exaggerating.  Perhaps no specific visible or chronological element of my life changed, but I had a major paradigm shift.

First, let me give you a little bit of background since I haven’t posted now since January of 2015.  My last post, titled “May I Starve,” described my life back then (the beginning of second semester of freshman year).  I hated how I had less fire for Jesus than I had my senior year of high school.  I felt like my every movement was futile because they did not have Jesus’ heartbeat behind them.  I wish I could say that my life turned around right when I posted about this in “May I Starve,” but it didn’t.

Ironically, I did starve– and I became used to it.  I have developed spiritual anorexia.

My senior year of high school, I became a theistic existentialist (kudos to Soren Kierkegaard for thinking up that philosophy and being so kind as to share it with the world, and thanks to Mr. Anleitner for forcing lazy seniors in Christian Thought to regurgitate it).  Essentially, this means that I believe that there is no point to anything in life without God, that the subjective rather than the objective points you to Him.  Due to this worldview, I used to ensure that everything in my life had Him behind it.  I am deathly afraid of a living futile life, so this focus was as intrinsic as my very breath.

Then, I developed spiritual anorexia.

For whatever reason, I began starving myself of God my freshman year of college.  At first, I noticed it daily because it made every step feel useless and vain.  Normally, my fear of this would drive me straight back to God, but, for some reason, I let it continue until it started to feel normal.

Without God, my life felt chronically pointless– & this started feeling like it was eternally true, like my life would always be futile.

This led to a snowball effect of caring less and less about my faith.  And now, here I am today.


Last night, I was struggling to pick up my Bible.  I forced myself to flip to the end of Philippians.  I have tried to reread Philippians, my favorite book of the Bible, in order to catalyze a fire for God again– these efforts have, until now, been in vain.

Then, I read Philippians 4:11-13, verses that I have read so many times in my life:

“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.  I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound.  In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.  I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”

These verses have never spoken much to me ever since I realized how everyone and their grandma takes Philippians 4:13 out of context (one of my major pet peeves now).  So why did these verses scream at my cerebral cortex tonight?  Likely because, in the last 2 years since graduating from an ultra-Christian high school, I have “lost my innocence,” per se.  I have stepped out into the real world and seen the darkness there firsthand– not just heard about it, but touched it with my own hands.  This reality check has been a major weight pulling my soul down, with its relationship with God plummeting first.

Just this last semester, I went through more than I have ever been through.  My life is not the certain path I once thought it was.

But “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.”  I have hit rock bottom and experienced every emotion associated with that since coming to college, yet I have also had the best moments of my life occur– “I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound.”

This last week, I have felt this crazy peace that I have not felt in ages.  This makes almost no sense because my life is more uncertain right now than it has been since right before I chose to commit to Northern for volleyball.  Yet, I feel so at peace.  I feel “CONTENT.”

How?!  I thought I was so far from God?!  How could I have the “peace that surpasses all understanding” (Phil. 4:7) that only HE provides?!

It’s so simpleIt’s because He was leading me through the darkness.  He never left my side.  I only stopped chewing on Him daily (spiritual anorexia!!) and became numb to His presence.

He never left.

And, ultimately, I never left Him because I don’t have the POWER to leave Him.

That paradigm shift just changed my life.  I serve a God who won’t let me leave His side, even as I wander through the valley of the shadow of death (Psalm 91:4).

How could I not want to gnaw on Him every day now that I realize that He never left?!