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Faith, God, Spiritual Life, Suffering

I See You

September 20, 2016

“To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.” -Tim Keller


The argument wasn’t even that big. I was upset that Jeff was on the phone with a friend while I was in the car with him. We had taken a day trip to Atlanta just the two of us, and I seen the four hour drive as a gift of time to be together and reconnect.

As we began to hash through our thoughts as to why we were arguing and what made me so upset, I found myself suddenly bursting into tears. “I just want you to see me.” I cried. Words began vomiting their way out of my mouth through broken sobs as I began to explain that my deepest fear was never being really seen for who I am and always living a life based on the assumptions of what everyone else thought of me to be.


The wilderness, it breaks us. It’s supposed to. It’s supposed to be the place where God strips away all the crap that’s holding us back to make way for a new path…a better way living.

We are meant to lose ourselves in the scarcity of it all, the surrendering and embracing of this new us we are becoming. Yet somewhere in the middle, well, we end up a little bit…lost.

It’s confusing trying to grieve our old lives while discovering this new one. To say goodbye to a life that, no matter how bad it was, was the life we knew. Can I still laugh at the same jokes? Wear the same clothes? What about my friends? Can I keep those?

The wild never lets you leave without changing you. It’s why you were meant to be there in the first place.


We’ve been friends a while, you know. Some of you I’ve hugged and cried with. Some of you I’ve known only in the cyber world and some of you are faceless people who live in the late night prayers I pray for your hearts. Our differences may be great, but we all hold one thing in common. We want to be seen.

We want to know that in the middle of this wild place there is someone out there who is looking out for us. A fellow traveller who is willing to hold our hand as we figure out this crazy thing called life and faith and identity. It can be so lonely at times that we wonder if anyone out there can really see and understand what’s going on inside us.

I haven’t lived your life. Nor you mine. But tonight, tonight I want you and I both to go to sleep knowing that although our paths are very different, we can still walk them together. And that even in the loneliest of moments someone sees us. So I’m here to let you know… I see you…

You the girl who quietly cries herself to sleep each night.

The girl who can only find comfort in the cut of a razor blade on her skin.

The girl whose body has wasted away from months of not eating or purging.

The girl who feels soiled and filthy because, in a moment of weakness, you gave yourself away to a man who you shouldn’t have.

I see you. 

You the girl who smiles on the outside but is screaming on the inside.

The girl who has all the friends in the world yet still feels alone.

The girl who looks in the mirror and cannot recognize the person looking back.

The girl who doubts herself and especially God.

I see you. 

You, the girl who’s suffered unspeakable acts at the hands of another.

To the broken, wounded, lost, angry, hopeless, addicted, faithless, weary, and worn girl…

I see you…..and so does He.

There are a lot of us out there, walking this holy calling into the wild. And though my light might not be a bright one, I’ll hold it high, and you do the same. And together, well hopefully we can help light a path that leads us all onto the life that awaits us on the other side.

Faith, Spiritual Life, Suffering

If I’m Honest

September 7, 2016


“Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.” -Brene Brown

As any good traveller knows, the best trips are the ones you’re most prepared for. We make lists, plan outfits, check the weather- making sure that once we leave we’ll have everything we need to make the trip a success. Every once and a while though there is that one thing, that one critical item we forget to pack, and suddenly our whole excursion feels ruined. I mean, how can I go eight days without my flat iron?? The thought of it just feels tragic.

As a traveller of The Wilderness for some time now, I’ve picked up a few things that I’ve found to be essentials along the journey. Things, that although it may not get me out of this place any quicker, are a source of life and growth and even joy in the middle of such a desolate season in life. So let me unpack my bag for you a bit, ok?


I wish I could say I was an honest person. Now don’t me wrong, I can dish out a healthy serving of brutal honesty and stubborn opinion like it’s no joke. Telling other people how I feel and think of them comes as easy to me flight to a bird. Some might say I love sharing my opinion on things a little too much (Sorry, Chels). The irony, as in most things, is that when it comes to sharing how I feel about myself and my life, I am all kinds of quiet.

I told my counselor one time how I hate to express need. The thought of telling someone I need help or their company or love feels icky to me. It feels weak. I want  to be the girl who has her junk together. The girl that doesn’t go to others for help, others come to her for help. Let them see the good feelings, not the bad ones. In his gentle yet convicting way he has with me, he told me, “Heather, there isn’t such a thing as good feelings and bad feelings. They are all just feelings. Feelings that are meant to be felt and meant to be shared.”

Somewhere along the way we’ve been told that in seasons of wilderness living that we have to embrace it with joy. If you’re not happy when life sucks, something is wrong with you. If you can’t smile while the world is beating you up you have no faith in God and you should go read your whole Bible right now and get your perspective straight. Christians aren’t sad, mad, or doubtful. We are brave and joyful and always have hope. Well excuse my language ladies, but I’m calling bullshit on this.

When Lazarus was dead, did Jesus -who knew He was seconds from raising him from the dead FYI- walk around saying “Cheer up people, This isn’t so bad.” No, he wept. He grieved a friend who died because he knew grief is important. Did Paul tell us that when a friend is weeping we should pat their back and say, “C’mon buckaroo, stop crying. Things are gonna be better.” No, Paul told us to weep with the weeper.

The most important thing I’ve picked up while living in the wild is that honesty, in whatever form it looks like, is always life giving. It is the oasis in the desert, the rain storm in the drought.

I get it, we want people to feel we are brave. We want to feel like nothing life throws at us will knock us down, but the mere act of keeping up that facade that everyone knows is impossible to meet, that is what will kill us.


Over my years in the wild I’ve begun to practice this art of honesty. Telling my safe people the battles waging war in my heart. Realizing that crying is brave and sharing why I’m crying is even braver.

As I’ve developed this habit of honesty I’ve begun to see something happen around me. I’ve made friends in the desert. Other travelers who, like me, are lost and scared and unsure. More and more we find each other and before we know it, we are all traveling together. Some of us are leading the way, others are being carried on our backs, but we’re together and it’s the togetherness that is sustaining us as we go.

If I’m honest, I’m still scared of this honesty thing. I’m still scared to admit that I feel like I might be stuck here forever in this forsaken desert. But because I’m honest, I now know I’m not facing those fears alone.

Faith, God, Redemption, Spiritual Life, Suffering

And Then I Saw the Flowers

August 31, 2016


It starts with a few storms – some good, heavy rainfall. Something rare for Death Valley, California. Just enough to soak the parched earth in one of the hottest, driest places in the world. Just enough to encourage growth in a seemingly barren desert.

Once every ten years or so, unforeseen beauty blankets the dusty ground. Thousands of flowers emerge in a phenomenon called a Super Bloom. And for a brief time…life exists in a place named for death.
It only took a week for my whole perspective to change. Just one week for my wilderness, my desert, to start looking like a field of wildflowers. Nothing about my circumstances changed…just my view…

It started with one flower. I was scrolling through stock photos of the desert to use for my last post when I came across an image – just one – that seemed completely out of place in my search. In the middle of picture after picture of dry, cracked earth was a desert scene with one single flower sprouting up from the rocky ground. Had I been scrolling quicker or not looking as closely, I would have missed it. But the pop of color caught my eye and made me pause…click…and study for a minute this beauty in a such an unexpected place.

In light of all I had just written about the miles and miles of nothingness in the desert I remember, it was kind of mind-boggling to me. How could anything so dainty and delicate grow in a place that seems so desolate and unwelcoming? And where there’s one flower, there must be more…but how?
This image stuck with me over the next week, forcing me to look at my own wilderness a little differently. If flowers can exist in the middle of the desert, what kind of life and growth am I missing right in front of me?

And then I saw the flowers.

It started with just one – a small, peaceful sigh as I walked into my favorite little coffeeshop one day and was reminded how thankful I am that I get to work there, that for the first time in a long time I truly love my job.

Then another – making last minute dinner plans with sweet friends, bonding over tacos and memories from a wild and crazy year, and remembering that even when life feels a little lonely, I am truly loved and cared for by some really special people.

And slowly I started to see even more bright petals popping up all around me. Some new, and some that have been there for so long, but I haven’t noticed.

I’ve been so focused on the destination just beyond the desert that I’ve overlooked the subtle reminders of beauty, of hope, of growth and life, right here in the wilderness.

Don’t get me wrong – it still feels a lot like New Mexico, or maybe Death Valley, and my last post still holds true for me in a lot of ways. The desert is still hot and dry, long and uncomfortable. But now…now it has flowers springing up everywhere. Suddenly even the desert is lovely to me. Because even in the most unlikely places, life and beauty can thrive.
One of the most captivating things to me about the Super Bloom is the growth process.

First there is a season of heavy storms. Fall brings rain that penetrates deep into the heart of the desert and initiates a growth that, at the time, can’t be seen.

That growth continues underground throughout the next season, developing roots, strengthening and maturing every day, but still going unnoticed through most of the winter.

Just before spring, the desert begins showing signs of a long-awaited Super Bloom. But while we can guess and anticipate and imagine what must be in store, we still can’t quite predict all that we’re about to experience.

Then it happens. First one. Then another. Starting in the valleys, the lowest points, and working their way up the mountains all around.

And a few months later, Death Valley is alive.
If we’re not paying attention, all we’ll see is that dry, cracked, dusty earth. But if we look closely, we’ll start to see them…one at a time…flowers all around us, reminding us that maybe the wilderness isn’t so bad after all. What if it isn’t meant to be a hard place? What if it’s meant to be a gift? A place to just rest and be, to stop looking desperately at the horizon for a sign that we’re almost out of the desert, and instead notice and enjoy the flowers?

In my wilderness, God has given me an exciting new city that makes me feel alive, a beautiful family that has become my own, a house that has become home in every way, a new job that has filled me with so much joy, the most encouraging and kind-hearted new friends…and more flowers to discover every day.

It gives me hope that maybe this is my growing season. Maybe my Super Bloom is just beginning. Im starting to see flowers in this valley…but I think I’m working my way up towards a mountain.

Faith, Spiritual Life, Suffering

Just Keep Walking

August 24, 2016


One thing I love about Tennessee are the waterfalls. Tucked away in deep valleys and amongst thick forests are some of the most breathtaking waterfalls I’ve ever seen.They spill out over the mountains that hold them, a sign of their power and wonder. It doesn’t matter how many times I see one, they always take my breath away.

Most of these waterfalls can be found by taking the carefully marked and laid out trail, following the signs, and staying safely on the path. But my favorite, well, it’s a bit more dangerous than that.

You start by hiking down a trail to a riverbank. That trail, though muddy and a bit steep at times, is pretty safe and easy to maneuver through. Once you get to the rivers edge, however, the trail stops. Instincts take over, and much like the steady rush of the rivers waters, everyone begins to move upstream. climbing over rocks, wading back and forth across the stream, we have no idea how far we’ve gone and how far we have yet to go.

As you walk you can see people beginning to quit. They set up their picnic, throw down their blankets and resolve that they have gone far enough- the waterfall not being worth the work. But the brave, the determined rest of us, we keep moving on.

There’s a point on this hike that I always anticipate most. I’m walking along, and then I hear it. Faint at first, but still there. It’s the swish and woosh of the falls, and although I can’t see it, I know I’m close. Somehow, my heart always begins to race, excited over the thought that I’m almost there. That the end, the reward, is just around the corner.

You have to walk another half mile or so before the falls comes into view. Another half mile of more river wading, more slippery rock traversing, more guessing which way is the best way to move forward. It’s agonizing at times, knowing your so close, but having no idea just how close you actually are. You turn a corner, and like magic, there it is. So big a beautiful, loud and strong. Suddenly, you forget all the work it took for you to get there because you are in awe of the beauty and magnitude of the what you are seeing. In an instant, the journey becomes totally worth it.


Seasons of wilderness are hard. So often God puts us there with no map and no timeline on what to do. We begin to feel like we are just wandering around, hoping to stumble upon something that is going to tell us where to go and praying that just a few steps away is the freedom and answers we are hoping to find.

A pastor at church this Sunday said something that has been sitting on my heart very heavily the last few days. He said:

We must persist so that we can experience joy.

I know what you’re feeling today. You want to quit. You want to tell God He’s mean and nasty and if He really loved you He’d show you were to go or He’d get you out of this wild place he has you in. Your legs are tired and taking one more step seems like an impossibility. I get it.

But you have to keep walking.

Sisters, persisting when the answers are unclear or the path is uncertain is not a sign of weakness or stupidity- it’s quite courageous. It’s a brave thing to trust and move even when our doubt is strong and our faith is weak. It says we want more. It says we don’t want to settle for good- we want the best. It says we’re a fighter who’s not going down easily.

Sometimes the wild feels endless and those nice flat spots along the way appear to be a great place to stop and stay. But they aren’t. There is so much more that awaits you if you just keep walking.

Maybe you only have the energy to take one little step today. That’s ok. Just keep walking. Keep walking, keep moving, keep pressing and persisting and before long, you’ll see that waterfall and know that the journey, no matter how long or hard was worth every single step.



Faith, Fear, God, Suffering, Uncategorized

Scaredy Cat

June 8, 2016


I can’t speak Spanish and I can’t dance, so you’d never know I’m Colombian, but it’s true.


My grandma, “Lulu” who loves all things tropical, tells us stories of how the weather in Colombia was—balmy and breezy and plants live year-round. My grandpa was a neurosurgeon and helped people he knew could never pay him. My dad grew up playing soccer and sneaking into the neighbors cherry tree with his brothers to eat the ripe fruit.

So life there sounds beautiful except for the hard parts. Like the time when they came home and thieves had emptied their house of everything valuable. Or when the neighbor kids were kidnaped for ransom. Or when my dad was jumped on the street walking home from school. My dad learned to watch his back because he lived in a place where if you weren’t careful, you’d be taken advantage of or stolen from.

When Brendon, my husband, visited my family’s house before we started dating, my dad told him, “This place is like Alcatraz, man. I see everything.” Laugh all you want, but it wasn’t a joke. (Insert crying smiling emoji face here)

He probably wouldn’t be too happy with me if I disclosed his multiple security systems, but lets just say when a “Secret Admirer” left an anonymous note in our mailbox with a rose one afternoon when I was in high school, my dad and I watched the security camera footage to find out who it was. HAHAHA POOR GUY!


So I feel very safe in my parents house. I grew up being taken care of and my mom always nurtured my intuition of knowing if a person or place was unsafe. She would point out potential dangerous situations and she taught me to be alert and walk like a boss through dark parking lots at night (and maybe carrying pepper spray). 😉 Having parents that are aware is a GIFT. They taught me well and have always reminded me that God will surround me in whatever situation. He is a fierce guardian and He is my strength.


But that lie creeps in. You’re. Not. Safe.


When I’m home alone or by myself, the questions come… Are the doors locked? Is the alarm on? Are there people outside rustling around? What was that noise? Am I going to be okay? How will I defend myself if someone gets in? Am I safe at home alone? Can anyone tell I’m afraid? Should I sleep with a knife by my bed?

These are all questions I’ve asked myself and I know I’m not alone. Being “fearless” is kind of trendy (that’s a T Swift song, right?) but let’s be real. Fear is a bitch. (excuse my language) But seriously.

I’m afraid of losing control. I’m afraid of being taken away from the people I love. I’m afraid that I’ll be found out… that I’m not that strong.


I know that because I’m writing about fear it seems like I should have some insight or inspirational advice, but I don’t. I’ve been thinking about why I’m afraid sometimes for THREE DAYS. And turns out, I haven’t really settled it, but I do know one thing:


When I’m scared, I pray.


So maybe that’s it. I still don’t fully understand why some places and situations make me nervous, but I do know what to do to calm my racing heart down. Praying helps me acknowledge that God is all around me and I remember that He says that He will guard me. Fear doesn’t define me, but the little moments of asking Him to be close when I am afraid is lifechanging. I will keep wrestling with this until I see my heart more clearly because I know that God can grow me out of this fear little by little.

If you’re afraid of losing someone or something, of being uncertain, of being alone at night, you’re definitely not alone, girlfriend. Even when it’s confusing,

What are you afraid of? What have you learned that has calmed your fears?

Body Image, Community, Faith, Family, Identity, Suffering, Your Story

Back Story

February 17, 2016
Nina’s Story
This right here is like hundreds of coffee dates at one time. Telling our stories to each other reminds me of common threads- joyful days, hard days, belly laughs and ugly cries, pasts and futures that get us all jumbled in the head. Welcome to my belly laughs and ugly cries.
So I was born in south Florida to a southern Kentucky girl and a Colombian papa bear. My parents met on a blind date and were married a few months later. A few years later, I came along and when I came out of the womb, my dad called me “coconut” because of my already thick and dark hair- probably not the most romantic thing my mom could’ve heard in that moment, but anyway…
Next came my brother who probably arrived on earth kicking a soccer ball. We argued a lot growing up, but we were constantly together- playing outside, at each other’s games, watching the same movies, and I may or may not have slept in his room when we were little because I didn’t want to be alone at night. Tough, stubborn, strong older sister? HAHA!
We grew up with family close by and with a solid group of friends that felt like family. Consistently covered in sand from the beach, sidewalk chalk from afternoons outside, or water from the pool, my tendency was to play outside before anything else.
Jesus became real to me in seventh grade during worship at a conference that my youth group was attending. I felt His presence in a way that was unknown to me before and I realized God is closer than the breath in my lungs. Because of growing up in church, I knew the Bible stories but in the quiet days following this trip, I remember sitting behind our house looking into the backyard and asking Jesus to live in me. Since then, I’ve had stepping stones of my faith walk where I learn new parts of His character, but I treasure the memory of that day.
I guess I could further explain my “normal” childhood, sweet and stable family, church friends, the culture shock of public high school after private Christian middle school, and the joy of always having the ocean nearby. But I’d rather tell you about a secret.
In elementary school, I got X-Rays.
Sure enough, my spine showed up on the lit screen as a rotated and backwards “S” just like my mom and grandmas. At first, I was scared for my body because I knew something was wrong. But then I was scared because of shame, that it’d be impossible for me to be perfect because the very thing that held my body together was crooked. My bones weren’t broken, they were distorted.
The doctor sat with us for hours and tried to explain why I’d have to wear a brace while I slept for the next five years. And if it didn’t work to manage the curvature, they’d consider immobilizing parts of my spine with a metal rod to protect my organs from potential damage.
Confusion was paralyzing and I cried from deep fear and sudden panic.
And then I didn’t tell anyone.
Nobody knew my secret. For some reason, I shut up. I avoided sleepovers so that nobody would see the plastic brace I kept under my bed. I know it sounds dumb, but it was a monster to me. I kept my pain a secret for years and ran to hide my brace whenever someone came in the house. When I was in the trenches of the years of endless trips to the doctor, more X-RAYS, and uncertainty of progress, I was frustrated with my spine.
Looking back, I see how simple the situation was. My spine is crooked and God was so kind to put the best doctors in my life to help me heal. The whole story is grace-filled and I love sharing it now, but at the time I didn’t want anyone to realize my flaws.
In college, a friend taught me how to crochet a scarf. Although I’m still clumsy with the hook and yarn, I’ve seen yards and yards of thin string become messy but beautiful pieces of clothing. My first scarf was a disaster but you could still see the woven pattern despite my inability. In the middle of the project it’s impossible to see the fullness of the finished work.
To the girl with a medical history, I see you. Maybe you feel alone in that doctors office and like nobody else will understand what you’re going through- your disease, your deformity, your mental illness. Whether or not it is obvious to the world what’s going on inside you, believe that it is for good somehow. And that it’s okay if you can’t see it now. I know that it is dark and hard and waiting for news sucks, but oh the freedom I’ve found in sharing the struggle. Such freedom. Such grace.
Community, Faith, Family, Suffering, Your Story

Redemption Wins

February 5, 2016



Written by one of our readers:

I guess you’d say my story started when I was born. 😉 But I don’t remember much from before I was about 5. I know most of my childhood was sheltered and happy. I grew up in a Christian home. I had (have) a big yard, and 5 siblings (you know…tickle monster, clubs, mud pies…a lighthearted childhood!). I was always in good health and mostly happy. For a while I thought I was saved, but now I know I wasn’t. I didn’t have assurance. Oh, I believed in Jesus’ existence my whole life. I “accepted” His “free” gift of salvation over and over again. But nothing changed in my heart. I didn’t actually believe I was bad. I didn’t realize my NEED. And I didn’t realize Jesus was crazy about me. Yeah, I knew “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so” but it was just because I was told that, not because my heart had been transformed by that Love.

Tragedy struck in January 2012 when my wonderful dad passed away unexpectedly. I think that his passing really woke me up to the fact that this life is temporary. My 11-year-old brain was desperately trying to deny the news that my daddy isn’t here anymore at the same time I was trying to let it sink in. He is with Jesus now. This experience shouted to my young heart that tomorrow isn’t promised.

This is scary for me to say, but it’s important. God has led me to see that I may not have been saved and seriously started pursuing Him if it hadn’t been for my dad’s death. I know. That’s been a really tough realization for me. My dad was a joyful, strong, and gentle man. I never doubted he loved me. I love and miss him more every day.

I’ve seen God redeem my dad’s death, not just in the redemption of my soul, but also in how I can reach out to others now. My loss has made my heart go out to people who are in pain. It has reminded me to look beyond the small right now, to keep sharp focus on the bigger picture. It has taught me crazy lessons of trust and surrender in God.

In November of 2012, my older sister participated in a local home school drama seminar, which was run by a Christian Drama trade school called The Academy of Arts ministries (AOA). Among other things, AOA travels to Christian schools and home-school groups to hold weeklong drama seminars and on the last day they perform a play. Their mission is to bring the Bible alive– it’s very effective! Throughout the week, my sister told us that group shared a special love among themselves—almost like they were siblings.

Little did any of us know how important her new friends would become to us.

September 2013 a friend introduced my family to Tenth Avenue North. TAN has a huge part in my story. Through them God revealed to me so many truths I had not known or taken seriously before. I learned that I am free to struggle, I am more than what I do, and redemption wins. By them I have been challenged to be honest, to give grace as I have received it, to forgive even if it feels like I’m losing. I have seen and felt God’s love in whole new ways. Their words and music say what I need to hear and tell me I am not alone with my feelings and struggles. Not only through their music have they instructed me, but also in their daily lives. I don’t know them personally, but mostly through the internet I have seen that they’re serious not only about saying but about doing.

They practice what they preach. That is so encouraging and inspiring to me.

The following November (2013), my big brother and I decided to “try it out”. 😉 We had an awesome time! Every morning we would be a little early to sing hymns and pray as a group before the day officially began.

I felt so at home! I knew beyond a doubt that I belonged.

On Saturday after the production, clean up, and pizza party, we wept for hours. I promised a friend I would try my best to come back. I scavenged money, and returned the next year…and the next. Between seminars we love getting together. We will make something up, or drive 6-12 hours, just so we can be together for a few hours! Without these fantastic people, I know I would not be who I am. God has redeemed so much within me through my AOA family.

Then came 2014. Though it had several very beautiful memories, it was overall a very chaotic time in my emotional and spiritual life. That year I wrestled with bitterness, hate, and anger. I struggled to forgive (others as well as myself), to love, and let go. That was the year I hid in my closet (spiritually and physically) several times, not because I was trying to pray, but because I was ashamed, and emotionally hurt–because I was trying to hide from everything. Trying to shut the world, the pain out. Even though I wasn’t planning to pray, by God’s grace, I did end up crying out to my Maker from my closet floor. It was in those dark times that I most deeply experienced His presence; though I know those were the times I least deserved Him.  It was a long process, but that year I came to the point where I finally saw my desperate need for Jesus. And so, it was also the best year of my life in more ways than one. This was the point where He could show me that He loves me with an unreasonable, unquenchable, and unfathomable love. That was the year I really WANTED God for myself and started following my Savior. My heart began to be transformed by His Love.


12183743_977968492260208_9173308097032215377_oLeah lives in Southeastern PA. She is 15 years old and homeschooled.

Faith, Family, God, Identity, Relationships, Spiritual Life, Suffering, Your Story

Made in California

February 3, 2016


Ashton’s Story:

I am from California, born and raise, and have been living in Raleigh NC for two years with my hilarious, handsome, and loving husband Hank. I have a mom and dad and two older brothers who I adore with all my heart. Growing up in California has its incredible blessings but also its very difficult cultural standards. It’s so different from North Carolina I find myself almost laughing because I never thought I would experience such a culture shock in my own country, let alone be married to a sweet Georgia gentleman! This isn’t a bad thing at all but definitely makes me see that where I came from has shaped me into the type of Christian and woman I am today. It’s always good to remember where you came from right?

When I was in the 1st grade my family started this tradition of traveling to a different country every summer. This greatly impacted my life at such a young age because it forced me to see with my own eyes how other cultures lived. I saw beautiful things but also poverty in many different forms. Every trip I realized more and more that most of the world lives differently than we do in the states. This sparked a HUGE love for different cultures and almost an addiction to travel and adventure…Which is a crucial part of why I think I have always wanted to become a missionary, and why I have made some crazy decisions in my life that others would think to be risky or unwise…you’ll see :).

As a little girl, I remember feeling morally different from my friends – or simply just wanting different things in life. Being surrounded by such a liberal culture formed my worldview as a believer and forced me to be comfortable with being different. I understood that my beliefs were not popular. It wasn’t normal or cool to believe in God. In fact, it was looked down upon and seen as “ignorant” or “narrow-minded”. I had far more non-Christian friends than I did friends at church. It was never a normal sight to see people reading their Bibles in coffee shops, and out of my public high school class of 600+ students, I could count on one hand how many true Christians I knew. So when conversations were brought up about what we wanted to be when we grew up, instead of saying “a doctor” or something of that sort, I would say “a missionary” or something crazy like live in a hut somewhere with a tribe (which I still honestly would LOVE to do lol)…but nothing prized by this world or relatable to my friends.

The success-seeking, “do it this way” culture I was growing up in wasn’t attractive to me, and little did I know this being different mentality would play over into so many areas of my life. Almost as if I just enjoyed swimming against the current of cultural norms. I see now that I was developing a rebellious, free spirit. All that being said, it’s a complete anomaly that I am saved. Seriously. Truly. Wholly. By God’s grace alone. Growing up in a world that is addicted to wealth and success, to physical appearance and the type of degree you have, and is SO good at storing up those achievements even at the expense of their souls…Yes…it is truly by God’s grace that my heart turned towards Him.

This grace that God gave me to understand His love didn’t come easy, though. It was a tough battle, and a trial that brought me to seek the gospels in a way I never had before. In the eighth grade, I felt that I was a Christian: I attended church with my family on Sundays and read the Bible maybe as often as any 13 year old, but my faith had never been deeply tested and I didn’t have a true intimate relationship with Christ. This changed, though, on the day that my dad told my brothers and I that my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. My mom was my most treasured possession on this earth. She was everything to me. She had to fight through chemotherapy for a year, get a full mastectomy (completely removing both breasts), and had a couple more years of surgeries to follow. Watching her go through these battles was easily the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.

I was angry and deeply afraid. But God used it to draw me to Himself. I went for a walk on a dirt path in the mountains near our house, and prayed and wept before my Father. In my expression of furious anger towards him, crying out of desperation and fear, God showed me that He was simply there. He was clearly asking me, “Am I still worthy to follow if I take your mom away?” He was asking if I trusted Him and truly believed He was a Good Father. Did I believe He loved my mom more than I did? Was I ready to lay my life down for Him because He laid His life down for me? Would I do so, even if He took my mom away? …And through the tears, I said “yes”.

I’m so thankful to tell you that my mom survived, and even defeated kidney cancer just three years ago. Seeing her be so strong and never lose hope has truly changed me. Her battle with cancer has drawn me close to Christ in ways that I can’t even describe. Because of this personal commitment, I was baptized on my first missions trip in the Baltic Sea in Latvia when I was 15.

I lived and worked in an orphanage in India for two summers in high school and this deep love for travel continued to be affirmed. All the while I was on a year round volleyball team that traveled nationally. It was a lot of work but I loved every second of it. I started receiving many scholarship offers and because it was the next level to achieve in my volleyball career, I committed to the University of San Diego at the beginning of my junior year.

When I think back to how quickly and freely I made that decision, I loved how fearless I was but also wish I could have had deeper discussions about my future and where my heart was really at. I had this unending passion to do missions overseas and couldn’t think of anything else I’d rather do…and then I also had this incredible opportunity to play D1 volleyball and get my education paid for…why wouldn’t I take that?? I would really only be going there for volleyball…but that’s ok right?? This decision started to seem like something everyone else wanted and desired for me, and although I loved playing and went through with it, I deep down knew it wasn’t what I wanted and that it wouldn’t satisfy my longings for very long. This was my first big life decision that I was questioning: “Is this what God wants me to do, or what my coaches and parents and friends think is right?”

Over and over I saw people obtain it all by the worlds standards, but truly they just.felt.empty. Many people I knew had no self worth even though they had all of these things; they had no joy even though they were told money would buy them happiness; they thought they didn’t need God because their academic achievements told them they could do it all themselves.

These were the things I grew up being afraid of. I desperately wanted to avoid believing those lies. And THAT is what fed my rebellious spirit against the “cultural norms”. I had inadvertently faced death with my mom and it kind of made me internally say “YOLO” even though that didn’t even exist then. God doesn’t say, “Get perfect grades, go to college, get married, find the right job…and THEN follow me.” No. THAT is what I wanted to be careful of and as a teenager tried to navigate the best I knew how. This has always been an internal battle of mine. Maybe some of you totally get what I’m talking about, and maybe some of you are for the first time asking if you have just been doing what everyone else is because it’s easy, but I encourage you to just go to God and ask Him. Ask the hard questions. We can do that together :).

Community, Faith, Fear, Identity, Relationships, Suffering, Your Story

When life isn’t as we planned

January 15, 2016


By one of our readers:

I went into 2015 with hopes and dreams just like everyone else. I was finally in a relationship, I was graduating in May, and I had the rest of my life completely planned out. The first week of February I got extremely sick, and two weeks later I got diagnosed with Mononucleosis (Mono) and a bacterial infection. I couldn’t breathe, sleep, or eat. One morning I sat there crying in pain when I prayed “God take control of my life, it’s all yours. I can’t hold on anymore”. That night Proverbs 16:9, “In her heart a woman plans her course, but the Lord determines her steps”, became real in my life.

That night my boyfriend broke up with me (great timing, right?) and I was finally able to eat something other than soup, it was an emotional rollercoaster already. No one fully understands why God determines our steps the way He does or why we have to go through pain. From that night, my heartbreak only got more painful. We went to a small church together and every Sunday was salt on an open wound. I felt empty in a place where I should feel full. Then, our pastor preached on Romans 8:28 which says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose”. That verse confused every part of me. How was any of this good? All things? Are you sure, God? How can you show Your glory through this?

I missed two months of school and my weak body could barely keep up with my dropping grades. The college acceptance process was in full swing and our bank account was dry. Every scholarship I applied for was given to someone else, and the rejection hurt. My dream to go to a small private college was destroyed, while my pride was diminishing as the reality of community college drew near. So I prayed. I prayed for clear direction of my steps. I prayed to find a community of believers that loved me, supported me, and prayed for me. I prayed wondering if everything will really be for my good and for His glory.

The feeling of loneliness became real when I sat wearing my cap and gown at graduation surrounded by 352 classmates, completely without plans. My best friend was the valedictorian and my heart stopped when she read Jeremiah 29:11 in her speech. I could barely hold back the tears trying to escape. I could feel the arms of the God who I thought abandoned me, wrap around my body. I felt like David in his psalms; one minute full of anguish and the next full of joy.

The transition into college was challenging, even to the local community college. My campus is in the middle of a very religiously and culturally diverse city. I was sitting in class when I started to realize just how broken this world is. I am a social work major so seeing brokenness is my thing, but all I could see was how much Christ was being taken away. I was told I could not mention my faith or my beliefs whatsoever in any of the class discussions. I would leave class questioning the Bible and if God was real because everyone was so assured that I was wrong.

My college only has one Bible-preaching organization in five campuses. When I saw a booth at the activity fair with a huge flag saying “H2o Church”, my heart was stirred. I attended the first small group with hopes of Christ-centered friendships. It became painfully obvious that God had His hand in it the whole time. My leader just so happens to also be a social work major at the partnering 4-year college, crazy huh? God handed me someone who understood what I was going through the moment I needed it the most.

At our fall retreat quiet time, I sat alone by the lake reading the passage H2o is based off of, John 4. Jesus tells the Samaritan woman about how the water He can give will no longer make her thirst, because it comes from the spring of eternal life that only come through him. But then this happens,

“He told her, ‘Go, call your husband and come back.’ ‘I have no husband,’ she replied. Jesus said to her, ‘You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.’” (v. 16-18)

Jesus just showed how he knows EVERYTHING! He’s never met this woman before, but he knows her and her sin. Then,

“The woman said, ‘I know that Messiah’ (called Christ) ‘is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.’ Then Jesus declared, ‘I, the one speaking to you—I am he.’” (v.25-26)

This is one of the few times Jesus referred to Himself as the Messiah and Son of God. The fact that it is told to a sinful woman is astounding. He revealed Himself to her despite her sin, her doubts, or who she is.

In that moment, I realized what God was doing. He was revealing Himself to me in every step of that craziness. Despite my disbelief, heartbreak, and frustration, God used His Truth to show me who He is. He never left me. He wasn’t taking everything away from me. He wasn’t pushing me away.

He was showing His glory through my life.

This was all for my good and His glory.



This is Tiffany Noble’s story. She is 19 years old. She is from Columbus, Ohio and attends Columbus State Community College.


Faith, Identity, Redemption, Spiritual Life, Suffering

He Picked The Wrong House

August 19, 2015


Ever since I was a little girl I always fantasized about one day living in a red brick house with a fireplace and a staircase. Coming from Arizona where every house was brown and stucco and the seventy degree winters made fireplaces seem irrelevant, my little heart longed for the cozy homes I saw on TV.

The day I saw the house is one I’ll never forget it. We pulled up into the driveway, a beautiful summer day, and there it was. Strong, proud, and a brilliant shade of red brick. My heart was already racing at what we would find once we opened the door and looked inside. I was overjoyed as I walked through this beauty to see a perfect staircase and a glistening fireplace. It was my dream home. It was perfect. It was mine.

After we bought the house and moved in, we were rifling through a bunch of paperwork the previous owners had left behind when we found them. Pictures.

You see, our house was built in 1938 and we were only the fourth people to ever live there. The people who we bought it from had purchased the house from a woman who had called it home for over twenty years. But when they bought it, the house was, well, let’s say, in need of a facelift.

We flipped through the pictures, seeing the house as it once was, and were overcome. We couldn’t believe that the beautiful home we were standing in had once been so hideous….so hopeless looking. But here it was today, remade and so stunning.

As I sat in my counselor Al’s office last year, tears spilling out of my eyes, I kept telling him how I felt so hopeless…so broken. I couldn’t see how the abuse I had suffered and all the horrible life events that came from that could make me anything less than a mess of a lost cause. Sure, maybe I’d find a way to cope with the pain. Maybe I’d even find a way to forgive and heal a little. But I’d always be broken. I’d always be the girl who was molested.

He told me of a book called The Prince Of Tides. The book was the story of a man who had suffered terrible abuse in his youth and how as a man he was finally able to start dealing with the pain. In one particularly graphic part of the book there is a scene where the main character is getting raped by his abusers inside of his home. As it’s happening, he looks out the window to see his older brother standing outside with their pet tiger. He goes on to say, “In that moment, I knew that they had picked the wrong house.” The older brother then proceeds to bust into the house with tiger and kill all the abusers. End scene.

Maybe like I did, you’re feeling a little bit like an old, broke-down house. Time and pain has worn you down, and you feel like merely a shell of the person you once knew. You want so badly to be remade. To feel beautiful, hope-filled, loved, and even useful again. But the scars are too deep and you cant imagine how you’d ever arrive at that place.

When heartache comes to us, the enemy, he thinks he’s won. He thinks he’s finally found the thing that beat you. But listen in real close sweet friends because I have something to tell you:

He picked the wrong house.

Hearing those words, for me, was like taking breath for the first time in forever. He picked the wrong house. I was not the defeated one, he was.

Ladies, I know the days can seem dark. I know and have felt the consuming feeling that our sin and shame and hurt can have over us. I know how it clouds everything we see, making day seem impossible and night our constant. But I also know this: you and I, we are not lost causes.

Much like my house, we are empty and broken shells in need of someone to come in, clean us up and make us beautiful again. Yes, there will be work to be done. Walls will be knocked down, things will be cut and removed, but there will also be rebuilding. Because we have Christ, and if He is with us then no amount of chaos or harm or abuse the enemy could ever throw our way will knock us down. We are a house on a firm foundation.

My lovely friends, you are not hopeless. Do you hear me? That weight you’re carrying that seems so heavy will not take you down. That light at the end of the tunnel that feels dimmer and dimmer….it WILL come. Because you, yes YOU, are a daughter of God and that means no abuser or mistake or death or break up or self-harm or addiction can ever defeat you.


“Do not fear or be dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours but God’s…You need not fight in this battle; station yourselves, stand and see the salvation of theLord on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.’ Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out to face them, for the Lord is with you.” 2 Chronicles 20:16-17

My house, much like myself, was once a lost cause. A place of desolation. But today, we both stand tall, stronger than we were before. The scars of the past still remain, but only as faded remnants against a colorful canvas. Do not give up dear sister. The Lord is with you and you will overcome.