BONUS BLOG: Do You See You?

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Something my dear friend said at Pine Hills 2018 really struck me. We had just woken up along with the rest of our cabin when, standing in front of the mirror, she proclaimed, “Isn’t is awesome to look in the mirror and not see your features, but only see you?” I just stood there, probably with some sort of awestruck expression on my face. Yes! Yes, it is very awesome. That sentence said out loud is so simple, a very easy and practical part of everyday life. So why is it so hard for us to believe it and apply it to our everyday lives? Why do we always scrutinize our reflection?

I believe our difficulty in finding our own self-worth is related to insecurity, feeling not good enough, and the idea that our bodies are something to perfect. I believe that finding out what God thinks about us is the best solution. During my bible time, I flipped to a random page that turned out to be in Song of Songs. I read it twice from start to finish. The first time through, I read it from the perspective of my future husband. The second time through, I read it like it was from God to me. God’s love for me became so much more real! His love is so mighty, and He shows us that love so we know it, but also so we can display that love to others. It’s His promise to us, and He will never ever break that promise! We are not meant to find our worth and love for ourselves in anything other than God Himself.

Remember at the beginning when I asked why we are always scrutinizing our reflection? Well guess what? It’s just our reflection! A reflection is only from our point of view, no one else’s—not our friends, our family, our co-workers or classmates, and definitely not God’s.  So, the next time you look in the mirror, check your motives. Don’t look to see if that red mark has gone away or if new ones have appeared. Don’t look to make sure your friends will like your outfit. And certainly, don’t look to see if the lies Satan is feeding you are visible in your appearance. Look only to see you, not your features, not individual parts of you, but the person God sees and loves. Look and see in yourself the image of God and know that you are loved and valued.

Little Flowers for Jesus

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Do you know what’s really hard?

Intentionally loving people in the mundane day-to-day, and trying to remember that loving them is loving Jesus.

It’s so funny, because that has been one of my ideal priorities for a very long time now, but I get discouraged sometimes. On a decent number of days, but especially on the days when I am tired or stressed or feel worn out, it is so, so hard to look beyond myself and really try to love each and every person I encounter the way I know Jesus wants me to. This summer, though, I had an amazing moment of grace which transformed how I think about striving to love other people.  

This past summer I got to spend six weeks in Newark, New Jersey living and serving with the Missionaries of Charity (who are also known as Mother Teresa’s sisters). I was helping with their summer camp which serves the underprivileged children from the neighborhood, so I spent each week praying with the sisters, organizing crafts and snacks for the camp, and playing with the kids. There were so many amazing moments! The group I got to work with was the 4, 5 and 6-year-old girls, and let me tell you: you have never seen anyone as cute as these girls. I got to play jump rope and sing with them and laugh with them, and we even got to go to the Bronx zoo for a day. Beyond just the kids, seeing how radically the sisters love and serve was astounding—it was so incredibly beautiful and awe-inspiring.

But guess what? It was really hard too! Each day was pretty exhausting even with a lot of sleep, and by the third and fourth week it was really challenging to try and do the same thing just as lovingly as I had done it the first week. All of the novelty had worn away—I had done service trips for a week or two weeks before, but at that point it wasn’t new and exciting anymore: it had become like the day-to-day. However, that actually turned out to be one of the biggest blessings because I learned the most from it!

Before I got to Newark, I had thought that spending my summer with the Missionaries of Charity was going to change my life because it was so different from everything I had ever done before. And it did change my life! But not because it was so different from my average day-to-day, but because it was so similar to my day-to-day, since it wasn’t super exciting and fun all of the time. It became challenging, but learning to love through and in the “average-ness” of it is exactly what made it so much easier to come back and keep on loving in the day-to-day-ness and the mundane at home.

There was one particular moment when it hit me so clearly. Mother Teresa and St. Therese of Lisieux both talk about doing small things with great love, and I have heard that a lot before and thought I understood, but it never truly clicked until this one moment in Newark. All of the little girls loved playing this one little hand clapping game, and so they would ask me and the other volunteers to play it A LOT. I had probably done it about twenty times this one afternoon, when this little girl named Leslie asked me to play it with her yet again. I’ll be honest, I really wanted to make an excuse and sit down somewhere in the shade or something and just take a break because I felt pretty tired that day. Then it hit me in the face: if I played the game with Leslie, I would be handing a flower to Jesus.  After realizing that, I was actually happy to play the game with Leslie— isn’t it always so much easier to serve someone that you love? It becomes a joy to serve them, never a drudgery.

That’s why it is so much easier to do something when you are doing it for Christ, when that moment is transformed into you getting to hand him a flower because you love Him. I love that image so much because it’s exactly like being a tiny little child and looking at up this person we love SO MUCH and being so happy to do this tiny little thing to show them that we love them. I think this is what Jesus was talking about when he was explaining what would happen on the last days, and He is telling the sheep that they gave him food when He was hungry or drink when He was thirsty, and they were like, ‘When did we do that??’ and Jesus says, “The King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40). We truly are serving and loving Christ when we serve and love the little ones around us.

Based on my sheer strength and the power of my will, there are days when I do not have the motivation to push past my grumpiness or exhaustion or shyness or self-centeredness to truly love others. I just don’t. But the good news is that the Lord does not expect that of me! He is the one who provides the grace and the strength to love others! And by His grace, when He helps me to change my perception of those moments to understanding them as chances to show Him how much I love Him, suddenly every day (even those hard ones!) is filled with simple, joyful opportunities to tell the One I love that I love Him.


So let’s look around within our day-to-days with our families, at school, with our friends, at Beloved, and let Him transform the way we see these average moments in our lives, so that we can see all of them as opportunities to hand flowers to to our beloved King!

An Invitation

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Dear Fellow Revolutionaries,

As I write this letter, I am like you, beginning a new school year. For me, this new academic year will begin the realization of my life-long dream to be a medical doctor. Although I am a few steps ahead of many of you, I hope and pray that that we can walk together in our journey of faith. I want to encourage you to live as a revolutionary of Love and to continue to grow as a disciple of Christ. Ultimately, we are all striving for sainthood and heaven and we need each other! Allow your sisters in Be Love Revolution to inspire, push, and call you on towards this eternal goal.

I have been a part of the Be Love Revolution since it began in 2013. Through BLR I have developed friendships with women who are helping me grow closer to Christ. These relationships are at the heart of the Be Love Revolution. Living fully for Christ in this world is counter-cultural and it’s difficult, and we fight the good fight right alongside of each other. Through the joys and hardships of life, we remind each other of who we are as daughters of God. We are journeying towards heaven together and constantly calling each other on to grow in holiness. We are a source of support and inspiration for each other. These women are Christ’s hands and feet to me, and through their friendship, I better recognize this call to Be Love to others in my own life.

BLR not only motivates me to live out my faith, but it also provides me with opportunities to do so. It has been an honor to serve at Pine Hills Camp, to help with retreats and small groups, and to be a mentor to the high schoolers that are in the Be Love Revolution. Maybe the Lord is asking you to allow someone to walk alongside you as you journey with the Lord or to take a more active role as a leader in BLR!

To have this opportunity to grow in and live out my faith and to help others grow in their relationship with God, is such a blessing. Through this, I am motivated to spread the Revolution and live more boldly for the Lord in my everyday life. I know my faith will be counter-cultural in the secular environment of medical school, and while this will bring challenges, having the support and friendship of my fellow revolutionaries is reassuring and motivating. I have friends who I can reach out to for support and who will hold me accountable in my faith journey. Be Love Revolution is more than just the events or the women associated with it; our mission carries eternal significance. So, no matter where I am or who I am with, I will be striving for heaven, saying yes to the Lord, and spreading the Revolution. Will you join me in this exciting adventure?

Be His, Be Free, Be Love,

Ellery Sarosi


Reality Check

High school me was super into the trilogy The Hunger Games. They were all the rage in the first part of this decade (am I aging myself?), and while I honestly do not remember a single one of the books’ plotlines, I’ve never forgotten one particular scene at the end of the trilogy. The male protagonist, Peeta, fresh out of intense mental, physical, and emotional trauma, is reunited with the female protagonist, Katniss. As the story’s villains have hijacked his memory, Peeta must ask Katniss “Real or not real?” questions about his identity and relationships in order to recover a sense of who he is.

This scene has struck me over the years because it reminds me of how one of the devil’s go-to tactics is to distort the truth and make reality less clear to us. Jesus tells us in John 14:6 that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, so it makes sense that when we lose touch of reality, we lose touch of the all-loving, all-wise Creator of reality, Truth Himself. I’m not about to go into the philosophical underpinnings of the mysterious word reality, but here’s what I do know: many of us are in a time of change right now. We are starting school again, maybe starting jobs, and daydreaming about scarves and cider mills. We are navigating new schedules and new responsibilities. We are reading the news that’s constantly circling around us, wondering what our place and our task is in it all. In the midst of change, transition, and instability, Jesus is inviting us to remember that He is true, that He is real, and that He is the only constant foundation and source of direction that we have.

Now is the time for a reality check. The most real thing I can say to you is that you have a Father who loves you, that Jesus Christ died for you, and that the Holy Spirit is their gift who guides you home to be with them forever. It is so real that you are made for Heaven. You are made to be saint. But it is so easy to view these realities as distant, far-off ideas that maybe touched your heart on a retreat one time or that connected you with some pretty awesome friends or that will be applicable once you’re older and settle into your future career and family life. But what is real is this moment. This is where the grace is found.  Saints are made in the tiny moments that maybe no one else will ever see. Holiness is found in the moments when we stop agonizing over our past mistakes and stop pretending that worrying about future scenarios will make anything better. Growth is found in the moment when we check out of Instagram and check into the reality of God’s love and care for our lives. We are found in the moments when we remember who we are, who we’re meant to be, and where we are going, all while fully living the lives in which God has placed us.

What’s real, then, is that we need saints who are, in this moment, pushing hard for a passing grade in AP Bio. We need saints who give it their all at practice and rehearsal, who are fully alive because they are activating the gifts their Creator has given them. We need saints who work 9-5 and remember to offer their day to Jesus amidst phone calls and paperwork and emails. We need saints who value family dinners, ask how others’ days were, answer questions honestly, and want to listen to honest answers. We need you to be a saint, wherever you are, with all that you are.

Cue the practical question: sounds nice, but HOW?

St. Paul invites us in 2 Corinthians 10:5 to “take every thought captive to obey Christ.” If we carry The Hunger Games analogy through, we can run straight to Truth Himself with the question “Real or not real?” The thought comes into my head that I am out of place and inadequate. “Jesus, is this real or not real?” I worry that I have messed up a situation so much to the point that it is beyond repair. “Jesus, is this real or not real?” I fear that striving to be a saint in my daily life costs too much and will take too much out of me. “Jesus, is this real or not real?” Listen to the response of Truth and Love. If you’re having a hard time knowing what He would say, run to Scripture. Be confident that any time you’re listening to and proclaiming the Truth, you’re winning back territory for the Kingdom of God in the battlefield of your mind.

Let’s remember that Jesus has called us friends, and He wants us to hear the voice of our Father. So as we continue through this school year and live through all the changes it presents, let’s be bold in quieting our hearts, turning to the Father, and asking, “What do you think of me right now, in this situation? What is real? What is true?” Listen to Him speak words of love to you. Let Him remind you that His presence is more real than you could ever imagine. Let’s revolutionize each moment of today, choosing to be saints by living in the reality of the glorious identity our Father has given us and anticipating our eternal home with Him where Truth will reign.

BONUS BLOG: Broken Chains

By: Sharon Jacobs

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The truth is, we are all exhausted.

This life is filled with so many tears, worries and regrets that it can seem as though this is our reality. Insecurity and uncertainty can eat our very being alive. It can drown us, and it can kill us—not only our physical bodies, but our souls as well. The Devil uses our flaws, our past mistakes, and our egos to lure our hearts away from the One who has loved, who does love, and who will forever love us so recklessly; the One who calls for us to have a relationship with Him. Jesus is the Lover that will love us through our faults; He is the only One who never disappoints; He cares so, so much for every single one of our needs. There are times where He will not seem to be present, but He is carrying you, He is always there.

Rather than bringing our insecurities and fears in humility to the foot of the Cross, we easily give ourselves over to fleeting things, approval, and pleasures—to broken people, wrong relationships, sex, drugs, and alcohol.

But only the Cross sets us free. Giving ourselves to Christ does not mean a happy, perfect life from here on out. In fact, life will still hurt us, and it will give us reasons to live in uncertainty and insecurity, but following Christ will set us free. Our relationship with Jesus is one that requires discipline and patience, but placing hope in the miracle of His love offers a peace that cannot be comprehended. It is, in truth, difficult to trust someone whom you do not see, but each one of our fears are conquered by His blood, once we turn to Him. No longer are we bound to be slaves of pain. Someone who loves us perfectly has fought the fight for us and He has won; He simply asks that we pursue a friendship with Him and to love Him recklessly, even when it hurts.

Even when we are victims, when we have the right to accuse and to be angry, when we are gossiped about or misunderstood, we are called to turn to the Cross and love. Love will set us free. Every day, Jesus calls my name and your name. He created us with His infinite, unsurpassable love, and we are made worthy of it. Even the greatest sins Jesus is willing to forgive, if only each of us turned to Him in all things.

Dear reader, I ask that you do not waste the living miracle of love. Our fears, our hurt, our insecurities were meant to be given to Jesus to show to us how badly we are in need of Him. Look around you…is not the world filled with brokenness, war, and hatred? These things take root in insecurity and jealousy even at a young age. I urge you to take every frustrating situation, any bruises in your heart and soul, and any shattered relationships to the feet of Jesus. Let Him break your chains. You were created to thrive in an everlasting happiness with the One who is so in love with every single part of you.

Busyness

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“Hey! How’s it goin’?”

“I’m good, so good to see you!! How are you?”

“I’m great! It’s good to see you too. You keepin’ busy?”

“Oh my gosh, yes. I’ve got so much going on, I don’t even know where my head is half the time, hahaha…”

We’re pros at being busy. We get busy, we stay busy, we thrive on being busy. We get overwhelmed with the busyness and attempt to clear out our schedules to make our lives a little less noisy and chaotic. Yet, since we’ve been so committed to practicing being busy, we get freaked out at the vacant time we now have, so we fill it with something(s) else. Busyness. It’s glorified in our lives today. It’s looked at as a way to ensure that time is being well spent, and that no minute is spared from being dominated by an outside stimulation. It’s a way of being American. It’s almost become the only way of being at all.  It’s the way of seeming important. It’s the way of validating our lives to other people when they want to get an inside scoop on our daily schedules. As long as we can answer, “Yeah, I’ve been keeping busy,” our existences are justified and we’ve ensured that we aren’t wasting space.

But the thing that happens when we submit to this way of being is that we don’t give room for the opposite of busyness to take effect in our lives…stillness. With busyness comes internal chaos and the compulsion to keep being busy. With stillness comes a myriad of different things, including awareness, discomfort, the opportunity for purposeful decision-making, space for God to speak, space for mysteries to begin to unfold, and maybe the hardest of all, the unchangeable realization that we are alone with ourselves.

A thought occurred to me about a month ago that has haunted me over the following weeks. The thought was this:

“I’m the only person that’s going to be with me 24/7, every single moment, for the rest of my life.

…I better love the decisions I make.”

Giving into the compulsion of staying busy doesn’t give me the opportunity to love the decisions I make because I’ve already allowed busyness to make my decisions for me. In so doing, I’ve relinquished the opportunity to take ownership of making choices with peace and stillness, and loving how I live my life.

In seeking to become more aware, and choosing how to live instead of letting the busy itch take over, I think it’s important to distinguish between being busy and choosing to fill one’s schedule thoughtfully. There is a very big difference between the two. Operating in an “every moment needs to be spent doing something” (busy) mentality is how little bits of anxiety creep in and dominate those precious seconds that could be peaceful and still – moments that could be spent in the presence of God. Operating in an “I care about choosing and living intentionally” mentality allows for moments in-between scheduled obligations to become little pieces of heaven as we direct our attention toward God, allowing him to justify our existence instead of grasping for purpose in an anxious lurch.

Psalm 46:10 says, "Be still, and know that I am God." It’s a little jarring to realize the opposite, “Be busy and forget that I am God.”

One way of putting stillness and thoughtful living into practice is to respond to everyday questions differently. When someone asks you, “Are you keeping busy?” How strange would it feel to say, “I’ve got a lot going on, but I’m not busy,” or, “I’m enjoying the things that I’m committed to doing, but I’m not keeping busy.” Or, maybe even just, “Nope!” The times when I have chosen to respond by saying, “No, I’m not busy,” have felt almost bizarre, like I’m willingly admitting to someone else that I don’t have enough going on in my life. But what I’ve noticed when I do respond by saying “No,” is that I am making room for God instead of busyness. I am deciding that in this moment, I am not going to give busyness reign over how I carry myself. Instead of my impulse to be defined by the comfortable reply that makes me feel validated and important, I am going to be defined by the peace of God. This is the peace that tells me, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:6-7)

During this time of transition from August to September, summer to fall, vacation to school, choose stillness over compulsion. Choose the peace of God over the impulse to fill every moment with outside validation.

Challenge: Before beginning a task or chore, eating a meal, or entering a practice or rehearsal, choose to sit completely still for 3 minutes with no agenda. Keep your eyes as still as you can, and trust that God will fill you in the stillness. Make this a habit.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled …
— John 14:27

The Moment of Courage

By: Emily Gross

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Courage (or fortitude) is one those virtues that I’ve never quite gotten into. I pictured it as one of those qualities only needed in dire circumstances, like for the martyrs of the Church. So comparatively, it seemed a little silly asking the Lord for courage when my life is pretty comfortable. But recently, I heard a quote from Father Mike Schmitz that shifted my perspective: “It’s easy to be good when it’s easy to be good. It’s easy to be just when it’s easy to be just. It’s easy to be prudent when it’s easy to be prudent. It’s easy to be honest when it’s easy to be honest. But it’s difficult to be good, or just, or prudent, or honest when it’s going to cost me something. And THAT is when I need courage.”

I’m going to be blunt here: when we choose God, that is the last thing the devil wants. And this isn’t recent news. The evil one has been showing his cards since Day 1 in the Garden of Eden when he slithered up to Adam and Eve and whispered lies in their ears. In that moment, it wasn’t easy. Temptation overruled virtue and the Fall of Man came to be. And yet, at the very place man did not have the courage to overcome temptation, God prevailed.

Thousands of years later, in a different garden, Jesus was faced with the most difficult task of his life: take on the weight of the world’s sin and accept a gruesome death on a cross. The devil slithered up, whispering lies in His ear. In that moment, it wasn’t easy. Jesus even said “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me.” Except this time, virtue overruled temptation.

Where does the difference lie in these two scenarios? Instead of giving up when things got difficult, Jesus had courage. The Lord knows that those who follow him will be tempted by Satan to turn away. Sirach 2:1 even states, “My child, when you come to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for trials.” We know this even in our everyday, seemingly comfortable lives. As much as we WANT to follow Jesus, our flesh is fallen and sin occurs. So how do we get the courage to overcome? Well, He gives us a good clue when He speaks to his disciples later in the Garden of Gethsemane: “Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:41) 

So how do we apply this to our lives? The first step is to know what to watch out for. Like I said, the devil has a pretty repetitive game. He knows what it takes to tempt us away from God and, as long as it works, he will use it over and over and over again. If we reflect on the steps that often occur before sin, we can notice them earlier on. Once we notice we are being tempted, the second step is to call Satan out and pray for the grace to overcome. Pray for God’s power in that moment. And those two steps, my friends, are the key to courage.

Let It Shine

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Pine Hills 2018 was a whirlwind experience, but the best experience at the same time. Not only did I have a new role at camp, but I had to miss the first half of it due to health issues. I've talked about this in previous blog posts, but I have a chronic disease called Cystic Fibrosis. It's a tricky disease that can make my life difficult at times, but the Lord's light really was shining brightly even while I was fighting that darkness.

While sitting in the hospital, I had two choices: I could be mad at God for not allowing me to participate in the most important week of my whole year or I could choose to walk with Him in the light, instead of wallowing in the darkness. It took some work but I eventually took the plunge and choose the latter. I then felt called to spread this light of Christ to everyone I encountered during my time outside of camp. Although I wanted to be doing this at camp, God's plan, even during moments like those, is perfect and He knew exactly where I needed to be. My dear friend Teresa Pauze (if you're reading this, shout out to you, you're such an inspiration!), said something during her testimony on Thursday at camp that really stood out to me. She said "I am bruised and battered, but I am better for it". This is now my current mantra, because last week was definitely a battle, but my faith and trust in Him has become much stronger. Once I was reminded of where my true identity lies, the darkness was replaced with His glowing light.

If we follow God and truly accept that He is the light of the world, fighting the darkness and blindness becomes so much more worth it. Then His light will shine through you for others to see. Sometimes it's not easy to choose to follow the light. We must have courage, strength, and perseverance to live it out. The Devil will try to diminish this light in every way possible. At camp it's so easy to feel his presence and light working through us, but when it's time to step back into our everyday routine, it automatically becomes ten times more difficult. However, Jesus is stronger and his light is brighter than Satan and his wicked ways.

Here are a couple of things that are helpful to remember as we enter back in to normal life: One is the verse from camp (John 8:12). Whenever you feel the lies creeping in, turn to this. Scripture is God’s love letter to us, and He wants us to use it in times like these. The second thing to remember is that our faith is not defined by our feelings. While emotions can sometimes be great, they don’t always represent His truth. The third recommendation is to find a community that helps you to keep your light shining. Don’t be afraid to reach out if you’re struggling. We are not meant to do this alone.

Finally, I just want to end with a quote from the book that I am currently reading called  The Other Side of Beauty  by Leah Darrow:

We cannot expect different results from our lives if we do nothing to change them. If we want a better life, then something has to shift. We are called to ask for and then act on God’s love and mercy for us. Receiving Christ’s love compels us to change, to become an example of his grace for the glory of God and for others.

I pray that you all experience this shift in your lives and that His light never diminishes!

Courage, Dear Heart

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C.S. Lewis and his Chronicles of Narnia, despite being “children’s books”, have had a significant impact on my faith life because they illustrate abstract, theological principles in a gentle, simple, and story-like way. One of my favorite saints is St. Therese because she encourages us to have childlike faith and to relate to the Father like his little children. Reading the Chronicles of Narnia was, for me, like sitting in God’s lap, warm and safe, listening to His sweet voice as he read to me stories that spoke of His great love and tenderness.

I want to share with you all a passage from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader that has affected me in a profound way in the hopes that it will speak to you too. Some of you may have read this book or passage before, and if so, I invite you to really think about the beauty, depth, and hope that this passage portrays.

Just a bit of (very vague) background for those who haven’t read the Chronicles of Narnia: A crew is sailing by a mysterious and malignant island, from which they have rescued a man, and are surrounded by absolute darkness. Even though everyone on ship was in high spirits not long before, they are all beginning to lose hope that they will ever find their way out of the darkness. Lucy, a young girl, calls out to Aslan (the Christ figure in the land of Narnia) for help.

Drinian’s hand shook on the tiller and a line of cold sweat ran down his face. The same idea was occurring to everyone on board. “We shall never get out, never get out,” moaned the rowers. “He’s steering us wrong. We’re going round and round in circles. We shall never get out.” The stranger, who had been lying in a huddled heap on the deck, sat up and burst out into a horrible screaming laugh.

“Never get out!” he yelled. “That’s it. Of course. We shall never get out. What a fool I was to have thought they would let me go as easily as that. No, no, we shall never get out.”

Lucy leant her head on the edge of the fighting top and whispered, “Aslan, Aslan, if ever you loved us at all, send us help now.” The darkness did not grow any less, but she began to feel a little—a very, very little—better. “After all, nothing has really happened to us yet,” she thought.

“Look!” cried Rynelf’s voice hoarsely from the bows. There was a tiny speck of light ahead, and while they watched a broad beam of light fell from it upon the ship. It did not alter the surrounding darkness, but the whole ship was lit up as if by searchlight. Caspian blinked, stared round, saw the faces of his companions all with wild, fixed expressions. Everyone was staring in the same direction: behind everyone lay his black, sharply-edged shadow.

Lucy looked along the beam and presently saw something in it. At first it looked like a cross, then it looked like an aeroplane, then it looked like a kite, and at last with a whirring of wings it was right overhead and was an albatross. It circled three times round the mast and then perched for an instant on the crest of the gilded dragon at the prow. It called out in a strong sweet voice what seemed to be words though no one understood them. After that it spread its wings, rose, and began to fly slowly ahead, bearing a little to starboard. Drinian steered after it not doubting that it offered good guidance. But no one except Lucy knew that as it circled the mast it had whispered to her, “Courage, dear heart,” and the voice, she felt sure, was Aslan’s, and with the voice a delicious smell breathed in her face.

In a few moments the darkness turned into a greyness ahead, and then, almost before they dared to begin hoping, they had shot out into the sunlight and were in the warm, blue world again. And all at once everybody realized that there was nothing to be afraid of and never had been. They blinked their eyes and looked about them. The brightness of the ship herself astonished them: they had half expected to find that the darkness would cling to the white and the green and the gold in the form of some grime or scum. And then first one, and then another, began laughing.

I don’t want to say too much of my own thoughts because I want this passage to speak to you in the way that God desires. What I will say is that I have found great comfort in the simple words, “Courage, dear heart”. When life is dark, unknown, and lonely, God sends us messages of hope. These messages, if we look for them, are reminders that God is always with us, providing us with the strength and courage that we need to persevere. The next time that you find yourself in a moment of darkness, I hope that you think of this passage and, like Lucy, call out to God for help. Your albatross won’t be far behind.

Arms Open Wide

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My seventh-grade year at Pine Hills Girls Camp was full of firsts: it was my first exposure to praise and worship, my first time meeting the Be Love Revolution and Pine Hills teams, and my first time being completely surrounded by an empowering collection of women who loved God so boldly, bravely, and completely I swear sometimes I could see the Holy Spirit’s fire coming out of their mouths.

I had the week of a lifetime. I tried to write letters home, but I was so busy and had so much to say that I mailed only one, and came home with four half-finished, three-page long depictions of the other days at camp. When my dad arrived to pick me up, I walked as slowly as I could to the parking lot, but leapt into the car with excitement because I didn’t think I could hold in what I wanted to share for one more minute. I began to spew stories of everything that I had done, seen, and felt in the last six days. I don’t think I finished more than one story, because as soon as I began, a second and third one came into my head and the words tumbled out of my mouth faster than my brain could organize them into coherent sentences.

I was alive and burning with the desire to tell my dad about this God I’d gotten to know for the past week, this Jesus who said He loved me and who was so much more than I’d ever heard of in the forty-minute religion classes I sat through in school. My heart was pounding with a new sense of authority, courage, and love that I had never experienced before. I wanted to share Him with my dad. I HAD to share Him, because my heart was beating out of my ribcage, and I had too much of the excitement and confidence with which I’d seen the women leading me speak. It was filling up my throat and my mind, and I used my hands every time I spoke, because I could feel it in my fingertips, too. My zest for the Lord and His goodness was greater than the worries and the twiddling thumbs of the world I was re-entering. For thirty glorious minutes, nothing could touch me. I was His. He was mine. This was my forever now.

Slowly, I began to quiet down. I was realizing I couldn’t express my joyful, earth-shattering Jesus experiences and days in the real way I had lived them. My dad was nodding, and smiling, and laughing at all the right times -- but he wasn’t responding the way I thought he should be. He wasn’t shouting with excitement, ready to proclaim to everyone on the planet right now that Jesus was Lord, and anyone who didn’t know that had to hear it, because how could someone be alive and not know it? He was what I’d been missing. This was what living was supposed to be. Jesus was the answer.

During that drive, I was more excited about that than my dad was. I cried then, because I realized it would be that way at home, too. It wasn’t their fault, but they hadn’t been there. I would have to try and share it as best I could, but I couldn’t expect those who heard my story to have the same passion and wild joy that I was feeling.

I didn’t want to leave this place that Jesus had so filled with Himself. I didn’t want to lose the bravery, the boldness, and the confidence I’d found there. I wanted to be this excited to talk about Jesus, forever. I wanted Him this close, forever.

As I’m sure you’ve all learned in your own lives, unfortunately, it doesn’t really work like that. I was given my weeks as a camper at Pine Hills Girls’ Camp because the Lord was equipping me with the tools (namely, the excitement, passion, and bravery) I needed to go out and share His Word of love with those in my life. I was twelve years old; I had just had my first taste of Jesus and I had the zeal for sharing Him. Sharing the Lord is not an easy task. But we are not asked to do it alone. He is waiting, arms open wide, to flood us with the grace and vigor we need in order to share Him with those who need Him most. He is waiting, arms open wide, to flood us with the excitement of a first-time Pine Hills camper who is coming home to the world with her heart set on Heaven.