Week 7 in Franklin, Tennessee is halfway over.
I have almost been here for two months now, and I can look back over the things I’ve done, the people I’ve met, and the places I’ve been with a smile knowing that I haven’t wasted my time. I’ve spent every moment living to the fullest. Yeah, my first month here was really difficult. I think all those who have already moved out on their own can concur with me: living alone for the first time in a different city is really, really hard. You find yourself, like an island, alone and away from the people you built your life around. So you have one of two options: settle for loneliness or decide to swim for the nearest passing ship.
It took me a while, but I decided to swim for the ship.
Well, the ship kind of came to me.
I don’t think we realize what kind of impact a single person can have on our lives until we look back and see how their relationship took us from where we were to where we are. We look back and see the effects of conversations, the meanings of meetings, the point behind the tough work it takes to maintain a simple friendship. I read once in a book that Satan opposes relationships.
“Don’t your relationships feel opposed? the author insisted. “That’s because we have to fight for them”.
How true that has become for me.
One of my reoccurring prayer requests this summer was for a friend, someone to hang out with, someone to share life with, someone to explore and adventure with. Well I have been blessed! God certainly answered my prayer in a way I would have never imagined.
So let’s backtrack…before I tell you about my friend.
Here’s me, interning three days a week and working the other 4. Life is full and busy. I was building relationships with co-workers in both places. My manager at Build-a-Bear, Kyle, and I had talked music a couple of times. I was flattered because he kept actually listening to my music recommendations and came back with feedback. He liked one of my favorite bands, Paper Route, so that prompted more conversations.
We started talking about the fact, jokingly of course, that we didn’t have any friends. You know how it goes. Of course you’re sad that you have nobody. You just joke about it to make it hurt less.
“Oh…I would…but I don’t have any friends.” – this is an altogether familiar phrase to me. Usually it’s coupled with a fake laugh. I’ve used it too often.
Well turns out we both wanted to see Man of Steel. We’re standing in an empty store on a Friday night, and we get to talking.
“I would go see it…” Kyle begins.
“But you don’t want to sit alone?” I complete.
“Yes”, he says.
That was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
It’s really cool how God brings you not exactly what you want, but what you need. I think when I prayed for a friend I was hoping to meet an equally-as-passionate girl my age who loved Jesus and desired to be this perfect example of the Christ-centered life. That wasn’t who God brought me.
He brought me this guy who is the only male employee at the Cool Springs Build-a-Bear (a fact that embarrasses him thoroughly – his old store had lots of guys, he insists). Who grapples with the idea of a God but isn’t willing to completely rule the idea out. Who set out on his own at a young age and has been through more than anyone should. Kyle has this overwhelming desire to bring good into the world. I think a lot of Christians could learn a thing or two from him.
I love talking to Kyle about Jesus. Because he is so willing to listen. It’s not a burden to hear me gush about how much I desperately need my Savior, but instead an opportunity to better understand how I comprehend faith. It’s nice to have a receptive friend. I try to be the same.
The past couple of weeks we have been exploring the beautiful Natchez Trace Parkway. One of my favorite feelings in the world is driving with the windows down and the music turned up, singing along to a fantastic song with a friend that doesn’t have any expectations for who you should be, that takes you as you are, eccentric phrases and all. So we take off on these beautiful summer days down this parkway in Kyle’s Accord. It’s not just any stretch of road. It’s this never-ending trail that threads through like four states. One lane each direction lined on both sides with lush trees full of deer and chirping birds, the speed limit is 50. So we’re flying down these roads through these forresty hills that occasionally break into breathtaking views of Tennessee valleys. When the trees break I feel the breath leave my body. I feel like I’m home. All along the trail there are waterfalls and lookout sites and historical sites. We saw Merriwether Lewis’ grave on our last trip. I absolutely love exploring the trace.
Here are some pictures from our adventures:
I like to think everyday I’m getting closer to becoming the women I desire to be. Right now I can only glimpse her in other people – she’s passionate and unrelenting as fire, as resilient and strong as a storm, natural and effortless as a cool rain. She is firmly rooted in Christ and dedicated to the people God has placed around her. She loves being outside, she reads and writes like her life depends on it, and she finds her delight and strength in her times of morning communion with her God.
Here in Franklin my personality has been tested in a lot of ways. I’ve fallen short far too often. I’ve snapped at my overly generous parents who love and support me to no end, I’ve let mindless, unimportant things completely dictate my mood, and I’ve had days that make me want nothing more than to ball up my dreams like pieces of neglected paper and throw them forcefully into the trash can. I remember one day in particular at my internship. I was sitting in a room full of people, head down and eyes dead locked on my phone. I was avoiding everyone’s eyes so they couldn’t tell I wanted nothing more than to escape the room, find a place of solitude and just cry. I was tired of falling short, of being imperfect. That day I had overstepped my bounds as an intern, putting in my two cents when I needed to be respectful and quiet. I had conceitedly asserted my opinion over that of others. I just wasn’t being who I wanted to be.
I think that is when I feel the worst: when I’m not living up to my expectations for myself.
When I neglect time with God, when I treat my friends badly, when I don’t do my job well or when I act selfishly, I start to feel this guilt tugging at my heart.
“Angela”, it says. “You aren’t being yourself. You really have lost yourself. You don’t know who you are anymore”.
These lies are the worst thing for my heart, because I know full well who I am and who I want to be. To begin to believe that I am dramatically changing into someone I don’t want to be is absolutely devastating for my perfectionist spirit.
I have two choices when I’m faced with this demonic little voice whispering lies to me: bow down and accept that I am not at all who I want to be (which is more often then not what I do), or to finally decide to shirk the parts of me that are itching to be changed. Usually when I feel like I’m not who I want to be, there’s a lingering truth that I’m not facing. I need to work on something, I need to grow, I need to change.
I’ve learned that more than anything, I need to thirst for the person of Jesus Christ. Everyday. In thirsting for Christ, He becomes my desire. He becomes the goal of my striving. In Him I become who I want to be. Psalm 63 has spoken to be in incredible ways this summer. It says,
“My soul thirsts for you,
My body longs for you in a dry and weary land where there is no water”
My pastor at Grace Chapel, a wonderful, passionate man named Steve Berger, spoke about Psalm 63 this past Sunday. He gave us background on the passage: David was running for his life when he wrote it. In the middle of the desert, David was fleeing the army on a mission to kill him, an army led by his own son. Hearing the context for this Psalm of faith brought so much perspective.
If David, in the desert, betrayed by his son, could praise God and say “God, you’re worth more than me to water right now. I want you more than I want the substance that my body needs to survive in this desert. I firmly believe your love is worth my life”, surely I can learn to turn to God and delight myself in His presence, finding satisfaction in Him alone!
My last month in Franklin awaits me. I can’t wait to see what lies ahead.
All I know is with my God at the helm…it will only be incredible.