rhythm and chaos

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It has been one of my persistent struggles to understand my testimony and share it well. I get frustrated, because if anyone should know this story, it should be me; I’m the one who has lived it, who has benefited on a daily basis from the blessing of walking with Jesus since I was three years old. I should be able to bear witness to His work in my life. I should be able to see clearly, at least in hindsight, where He has done His greatest work in me.

In some ways, I can: I can look back and see the shifts and the weather patterns that have colored my years, and some of the purposes they’ve played out. I know these are all parts of the testimony God is writing in me, but whenever I try to sum it up in so many words, I’m frustrated by the attempt to “arrive” somewhere. I want to be able to draw a line clearly from the shift that happened one year ago, or eighteen months ago, or the day I got the phone call, or that undefined span of time as a newlywed, or on my wedding day, or when I moved to Bible school all the way to now and say, “This is it. This is exactly where God has brought me. Here’s how and here’s why.”

But I can’t.

Much as it sometimes feels like there must have been one moment in which everything changed, in which God ultimately revealed Himself and brought my testimony to its climax, the truth of the matter is that God works slowly. He works in processes, in moments, across years. He’s a farmer, not a magician.

I grew up watching (and sometimes helping) my dad farm, and I’m not sure anything has taught me as much about how God operates as that experience. Farming, a metaphor the Bible uses again and again to describe God’s work, is change and same, reward with disappointment; it’s past and now and future, all bound together somehow. There’s a rhythm in it, but also chaos - unpredictability. It is down-to-earth and touching heaven at the same time, in the most humbling possible way; a momentary glimpse of the Edenic vision in which God and Man and Creation coexist in harmonious relationship with each other.

And it doesn’t ever “arrive.” A year of abundant harvest is followed rhythmically by winter’s rest, only to try it all again when spring arrives. No two years will yield the very same, and the story is never over. There is progress and process, joy and frustration, years of fallow and change, but the work doesn’t reach an end-point or get wrapped up in a bow. The testimony is never quite complete.

Nor is mine. It can make for a frustrating story to tell, but also an exciting and comforting one. In moments and across years, in a way that will never be completed in this life, God is cultivating me. His work is hard, long, and emotional, but also calming, grounding, and restful. I can’t necessarily draw lines between the seasons and say “This is what, this is how, and this is why,” but I can point to the One who is constant through it all and say, “He is always near, and He is doing something in me.”

We are a culture that only puts the big, earth-shattering events on display. The trips to Europe, the births, the deaths; the times we audibly heard God’s voice or saw Him move in a tangible way. But I’m convicted that it’s in the in-between where the real work and growth is done. The mundane middle is what life is made of - the rhythm and the chaos, and the too-boring-to-be-documented. I don’t know if I’ll ever “get there,” or even know where “there” is in this life, but I know that if I’m walking with Jesus, it will be good.

follow me: a testimony

Today it's been six years since what I now look back on as the moment I dropped my fishing nets and set off, empty-handed, in pursuit of the Man who said, "Follow Me."

Someone recently asked me to share this story, and the sixth anniversary of the day seemed like as good a time as any. It's the story of a terribly young, terribly afraid 18-year-old girl who dropped her whole familiar life to obey the summons of Christ and enter into discipleship with Him.

I had spent my entire life on the same piece of Eastern Washington ground until then. And I loved it. I put down deep roots there, roots like the lone ponderosa pine tree in the middle of the front hayfield—isolated, perhaps, but strong, beautiful, contented. This was my bubble, my world. I knew those ninety-two acres like the back of my hand and I explored them voraciously, with my horse, my sister, my bike, my camera, or my own two feet in a pair of rubber boots. I could forecast the weather by the feel of the wind or the look of the clouds around Mt. Adams; I could have drawn every hill and tree and shape on the western horizon from memory, having stared at those mountain sunsets for all of my life. I could tell you the season, even the exact month, by smell alone—smells of fresh apple skins in September, crisp yellow leaves in October, or frosty horse breath in November.

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And there, I met Jesus at a very early age. I gladly walked with Him in blind childlike faith until at last He called out, "Follow Me" - and only then did it occur to me that I had a choice: I could stay with the familiar, mending my nets day in and day out, or I could drop it all and run after Him. It was a division in time, the parting of the Jordan, the choice to obey or disobey—to believe or not believe. It was then that I stood as face-to-face with Christ as perhaps I ever have, when He offered me a cross to bear in exchange for knowing Him more, when I stood in the TSA security line at PDX and made the final decision to fall hard and hope that faith would catch me.


I remember sitting aboard my flight from Portland to Denver early that morning, the morning of August 16, 2012 - so alone, trying to blink back tears so I could see Mt. Adams, Mt. Rainier, Mt. St. Helens, and Mt. Hood for as long as possible. Our ascent took us almost directly over Mt. Hood, so close that I could see every rock and glacier, every crack and crevice, even the paths across the snowfields heavily trodden by climbers’ crampons. It gave me flashbacks to my Mt. Adams climb just two weeks before, that long cold night of putting one foot in front of the other across the steep and seemingly endless snow-covered mountain face, watching the sunrise cast a mountain-shaped shadow over the western horizon and in awe that God made anything this big.

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That long, slow, dogged-determination night must have been good practice, though, because while Florida was the flattest place I had ever seen, the mountain I saw looming ahead of me when my plane touched the runway in Orlando might as well have been Everest.

Alone. That word ran round and round in my head, taunting me, reminding me minute by minute of the three thousand miles of North American soil I had just put between myself and everything I knew, everyone I loved.

I settled into my dorm room at Great Commission Bible Institute, all my worldly goods taking up about two dresser drawers and a short hanging rod. I made my bed - top bunk, like I always had at home - and set my laptop on my desk. My new Bible, perfectly crisp and clean, was waiting for me in anticipation of my first day of class on Tuesday. I sent pictures to my mom so she could envision where I would be living for the next ten months of my life.

And I cried myself to sleep - that night and the next. (The only thing that stopped me the third night was my roommate's arrival from Pennsylvania, and I don't often cry in company.)

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I will tell you that the year I invested at GCBI to learn the Bible from front to back is still one of the hardest years I've ever endured.

I will also tell you that it's still one of the best.

And the impact it had on me to obey the summons of Jesus and make the choice to truly become His disciple - even though I had already known Him almost all my life - is everlasting. Every day, my thoughts, my choices, my purposes, and my vision are what they are because of that decision.

I encountered my God that year. I grew and flourished in His character even while I was harshly pruned by His love. I learned how to study His Word on my own, with total confidence that I can know Him deeper every day through its contents. Because of this, I am still growing - still flourishing - still being pruned. And I am still bearing the fruit of it.

When Jesus says to you, "Follow Me" (and He will) - it is worth it to obey. Whatever the cost.

And once you do, He'll call you again - and again - and again, ever higher and deeper into His love, ever further into His story, ever closer to His heart.

But don't just take my word for it. The Bible is bursting with stories that proved this truth thousands of years before you or I ever breathed. Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Gideon, Ruth, Hannah, Samuel, David, Esther, Daniel - and I have not even begun to name the disciples who followed Jesus' literal call to lay down their nets and follow Him!

I thank God for inviting me to join Him on this hard, beautiful road six years ago. Along the way, He has showed me who He is, and who He is truly changes everything.

When Jesus says to you, "Follow Me" (and He will) - it is worth it to obey. Whatever the cost.