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My Loveliest Whirlwind Yet

I have been home for about 48 hours from my first year of college, and my mind has not yet known how to respond to the questions: “How was it? What was your first year of college like? How did Vanderbilt treat you?” My heart has a million and one feelings about the past year, but my mind lacks words to synthesize my answer in the “right” way, in a way that is feels representative of my experience. Just as I write these words, chills cover my whole body, and my eyes well with tears as I take the first deep breath in debriefing what has been the loveliest whirlwind of my life. The only combination of words that can sum up the past year but also reveal the depth of its experience: lovely whirlwind. Jesus has been too good to me this year, so close in every moment even when I felt under the tremendous waves of uncertainty that is living a new life in a new place with new people. It was His whisper in Scripture that rescued my racing thoughts on walks to class. It was His goodness to bring me people that reveal more of His heart to me that offered me community in times that lacked connection, especially during college in a COVID-19 pandemic. It was His nearness that reminded me to take hope in the little things when my large to-do list felt too daunting. It was His patience that calmed me when I tried to white-knuckle control back over my life in the face of discomfort. It was His anthem in Gospel music that filled the quiet of my often lonely dorm room. It was His presence that taught me that it is our choice to choose His joy. That last part is where I want to land for the rest of this blog. You may be getting tired of hearing me talk about joy, but every month I come on here to write, I revel in the reality that God has continually revealed a new depth, a new dimension of His joy to me that is too good not to share. I do not say “too good” out of any selfish longing to brag. I am a sinful, fleshy human like anybody else. Instead, I say it in hopes of encouraging you to hold on, to hold on to faith in the God of all joy. Like you might find yourself today, I too did not believe that the joy I heard Christians shout about was real. In fact, I thought it was more so some type of facade, a coping mechanism in the face of a dark, broken world. It was not until I took the little baby step in faith to ask God to reveal that kind of childlike, unbridled joy to me that my heart began to understand that true joy in the Lord is real and near. I think God knew I would need this joy. It was my lifeblood in a season where my family was walking through uncertainty, and I could not be home to hug them. It was my foundation when my best friend, our family dog of 16 years Mal went to Heaven while I was a state away. It was my energy on days when crazy schedules and daunting assignments threatened to cloud all light. In all of this, here is what I learned more than anything else in my first year of college: uncertain, uncomfortable seasons create all the more space for the most joyful joy, the kind only God can give. For the entirety of my life up to going to college, everything was pretty manicured and tied in a bow before me. I say this understanding what a great blessing that was but also with the insight now that manicured paths often miss out on the greatest joy God has planned for us. Instead, true joy reveals itself as the lifeblood in the messy and hard places. One verse that the Lord has kept on my heart in the past couple of weeks has been a testament to me in this: “Yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places” (Habakkuk 3:18-19, ESV). The word “will” in this verse reveals that joy is our choice. We can wake up in the morning and decide that we will rejoice in that day, despite whatever hardship may come before our “yet.” We can look in the face of life’s hard places yet still choose joy, knowing that God wants what is good for our lives, that He wants joy for our days. By choosing joy, God becomes our strength even more. The last part of that verse, however, is my favorite because God revealed to me its truth in volumes throughout the lovely whirlwind that was freshman year: choosing joy in the Lord brings life to the hard places where God equips us to walk with feet that are stable like deer’s. Your high places, your hard places may be different than mine, but God equips you to walk through them with as much strength and joy as He equips me with in mine. What would it be like to simply profess with your lips today that you choose to rejoice in the Lord, to walk in a way that seeks little joys in the face of the big, messy parts of life? I am joining you in this; His joy is too good not to. 

With love, C

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