Tuesday, December 1, 2015

— To Be 27 —

Through great joys, laughter, valleys and tears along the way, I have made it to twenty-seven years of age. Birthdays are like mile markers in my life. They cause me to pause in remembrance of past "severe mercies" & blessings, and they give me an eager anticipation for what God has in store.

This last year of my life has been good in so many ways.

I broke away from my comfort zone and began attending another church in the Denver area for a couple reasons — one being the desire for more Gospel centered community with other fellow singles in my age category (upper twenties & early thirties.) No church is perfect, but I am grateful for churches that preach the truth of the Gospel, with a love for reaching the world around us.

The Lord was so gracious in supplying a new job for me at Starbucks Coffee Company this last Spring. The timing of my hire couldn't have been more timely. I do love working at a coffee shop!

In September, I learned to embrace my fears (or rather, maybe I learned to let them go?) by taking a solo road trip by myself to the other side of the state, to photograph the Maroon Bells. (Visiting the Maroon Bells has been something I've had on my bucket list for several years now.) Sometimes I wonder if some of us — or rather, I — have not reached my full potential for fear of what could be, or what could happen... instead of taking a risk, leaving my bubble of comfort, facing my fears head-on and letting God show Himself strong in my human vulnerability and weakness. How much I miss when I let fear control me!

This year, the Lord has taught me that I need to be content in my season of loneliness—to find Him 'enough' just as He promised to be. I would be lying to you if I said my singleness hasn't been hard. Are desires of marriage bad to have? No, but until GOD grants it (or IF He grants it at all for me), I pray that He would teach me to wait WELL, to teach me to be single—WELL—while giving God glory. As I continue to depend on Him for my only source of fulfillment and joy in life, I pray that it could be said of me that I learned to be single well.

Mark Dever put it this way, "The basic posture of the Christian life is waiting. Either we're waiting on a spouse, or waiting for children, or waiting for a job promotion, or a bigger house, or our children's salvation, or retirement... and ultimately every Christian is simply waiting for Heaven, for Christ's return." 

I do believe the Lord is coming back soon for His church, and my heart is longing for that day when there will be no more sorrow, crying or remembrances of painful seasons. We will be forever in His presence, worshiping Him together for all of our days because He is the worthy Lamb who gave Himself up for us. I may never be a bride this side of eternity, but I am HIS bride, HE is my Husband, and and one day soon, there is going to be a great and glorious wedding feast to celebrate all that God has done. May our hearts be full of eager anticipation as He prepares us for that Great Wedding Day.

"...Jesus is coming soon.
Like a bride waiting for her groom,
We'll be a church ready for You,
Every heart longing for our King,
We sing, 'Even so come, Lord Jesus come.'"

Sunday, August 16, 2015

The Good Old Summertime

A couple weeks ago, I was seated on an outdoor patio in Old Town with a friend, indulging in a rich dessert. 

"Of course I love Jesus and know Him. But there's no other way to put it. Suffering changes you." 

My soul has been tired. So tired.
Hardship has worn my heart to wearisome threads. 

I am emotionally healthier and much more stable than I was just 9 months ago, but still… I am changed. I don't feel like the same 'Leah' anymore, and at times, that scares me. It's in moments like these that I am reminded that even though seasons change and seasons end, and people change, our God is never changing, always the same, never forsaking.

The late spring & summer months have quieted down to a peaceful norm. Nothing altering or life changing. Just living day to day life, working a full time job at Starbucks and having fun here and there. (Of course.)

Earlier this year, I expected that right now, I would be packing up all I own into my tiny Ford Focus and driving across the midwest to Michigan for Bible school this fall. That was the plan - but God brought me to a place of rest instead. Here is where He wants to be right now. I think 9 months ago, I was trying to 'run away' from my pain and my life, so going to Bible School seemed like the right, godly, spiritual thing to do. Not that it wouldn't have been good for me, but the Lord has been showing me that I don't need to prove myself to Him. I don't need to have a Missions degree from a Bible College to prove to Him, myself or others that I love Him and that I know that I don't need anyone else to satisfy me in this life. Of course He knows my heart - I am His. He loves me.

So, that is that.
I don't know what He has in store me. I have no plans. I have no remote clue. But I do know that I want to know Him more deeply. I want to truly KNOW Him, to be in relationship with Him, to truly enjoy Him for all He is.

Since about April, I have been attending a church in Denver. I don't know if this will become my new home church (as the hour long drive is so hard every Sunday), but if my soul is being fed Truth, then it is worth it!

One of my favorite sermons preached to date was a message preached by one of the elders out of Psalms 45. (Actual sermon starts at about 10:30 into the audio.) He shared the following quote:

"God is the highest good of the reasonable creature. The enjoyment of Him is our proper and is the only happiness with which our souls can be satisfied. To go to heaven, fully to enjoy God is infinitely better than the most pleasant accommodations here. Better than fathers and mothers, husbands, wives, or children, or the company of any or all earthly friends. These are but shadows; but the enjoyment of God is the substance. These are but scattered beams; but God is the sun. These are but streams; but God is the fountain. These are but drops; but God is the ocean."
—Jonathan Edwards

A friend of mine way back from photography school (in 2008) recently moved to the area, so he joined me at church one Sunday! After service, we went to Starbucks and talked about theology for a couple hours. Definitely gave me a lot to chew on and ponder.

This summer I got to attend my first Broadway musical! After having several friends from photography school and others recommend it over the years, I finally had the chance to see it. It was so good! I will never look at the story of The Wizard of Oz in the way again. My favorite songs from the musical were "I'm Not That Girl" and "Defying Gravity." (Oh, and don't judge the musical by it's title. ;-) I know it might sound scandalous, but I promise - it's not!) ;-)

This summer I explored a local venue, the Grant Humphreys Mansion located on Capitol Hill in Denver. Beautiful! Couldn't you just picture it in a Jane Austen film, or even in a story from the 1920s?

I went up to Rocky Mountain National Park a couple times…

And photographed the night sky at 11:30pm… at 12,000 feet elevation!

I made food occasionally. (When I wasn't working. Which is a rare occurrence these days.)

Pictured here is warm pita bread, spread with hummus, stuffed with falafel, lettuce, chopped tomato and slathered with tzatziki cucumber sauce. 
One morning for breakfast, I made myself a Sunny-side Up Egg & Avocado on Toast. It turned out rather pretty, if I do say so myself. ;-)

More recently, I made some (Paleo) Roasted Summer Squash Noodles. *Served with Toast Coconut Tea.

I visited our County Fair, which was an absolute blast. I ate funnel cake and Dole pineapple ice-cream, rode the ferris wheel and hanging chairs (what are they really called? Haha!) and laughed too hard with a good friend. I hadn't been to a fair since my childhood days in southern California!

(Yes. We went back another night.)

I bought some shoes on clearance from Madewell. (After I had been eying them for so long.) What girl's day wouldn't be made by getting shoes in the mail?

To close out the summer, I went to Red Rocks Amphitheater for "Worship Night in America."

Louie Giglio and Max Lucado were the speakers that evening, and these were a few of their quotes I jotted down for safe keeping.

"We sing, not because we haven't gone through the valley of the shadow, but because we have been raised from the dead spiritually." (Louie Giglio)

"Would you let God love you?" (Max Lucado)

"Let Him change You with His love - a love that casts out every fear." (Max Lucado)

Into the darkness You shine
Out of the ashes we rise
There's no one like You
None like You
Our God is greater, our God is stronger
God You are higher than any other

Friday, July 10, 2015

To Come to a Place of Rest

I wonder if the Lord is ever amused at our minuscule plans that we think are so grand, because He knows His master plan is so much grander — it exceeds deeper & fuller than we ever thought possible. In these times of sanctifying growth, painful stretching and earth shattering moments that He reveals not only His true will, but He reveals more of His unadulterated self to us.

I used to think the most beautiful stories were the ones where dreams came true. But perhaps the most beautiful stories are the ones where the plot changed to something completely different. Not because of how things didn't go the way they wanted, but because the journey was more beautiful than the ending (however glorious and beautiful the ending was.)

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

In Memory of Elisabeth

“God never withholds from His child that which His love and wisdom call good. ...While it is perfectly true that some of my worst fears did, in fact, materialize, I see them now as ‘an abyss and mass of mercies,’ appointed and assigned by a loving and merciful Father who sees the end from the beginning. He asks us to trust him.” Elisabeth Elliot 

Yesterday I received news that a dear, godly lady, Elisabeth Elliot, passed on to Heaven to meet our Savior face to face. As I was driving my 40 minute commute after work, the tears began to flow down my cheek. Oh, maybe the tears were a culmination of many things, but I truly felt deep grief & sorrow — to know that earth lost such an incredible hero of the faith. I imagined what it must have been like for Elisabeth to walk through those Pearly Gates of Splendor & to be reunited with her beloved husband, Jim, who was martyred in Ecuador by Auca Indians in 1956. 

Over the last 10 years, this precious lady was like a mentor to me - through her books, through her stories and her quotes. She was a role model to me of what a godly woman should be like. Infact, during my high school years, I journaled of my desire to want to marry a man like Jim Elliot one day, and serve together with him as a missionary on the mission field. When I was 19, I went through my first, real relationship crisis or "break up" if you willand I remember calling my mother on the phone with tears streaming down my face, "If the Lord can do it for Jim & Elisabeth Elliot, then I know He can do the same for me."

It was Elisabeth herself who penned ,"Out of the deepest pain has come the strongest conviction of the presence of God and the love of God.” She also said, “To be a follower of the Crucified means, sooner or later, a personal encounter with the cross. And the cross always entails loss."

I was always felt like I could relate to Elisabeth's shy, reserved personality. In Jim Elliot's diaries, he writes of how quiet & reserved Elisabeth was during the beginning of their relationship, and how he wished she could've been a little more forthright. Even still, he pursued her and loved her for the woman that she was.

I am forever grateful for Elisabeth's life example and the unshakeable faith & trust that she had in Christ. She so wisely said, "To love God is to love His will. It is to wait quietly for… the One who knows us through and through."

The last day or so, I have been constantly listening to the song, "Find Us Faithful" (sung by Steve Green). I just love the words.  Truly,

May all who come behind us find us faithful.

"The older I get, the more totally convinced I am that God DOES know what He's doing. 
He loves us with an everlasting love, and He wants us to trust Him." 
Elisabeth Elliot

Sunday, June 14, 2015

When I Am Alone // A Vulnerable Post About Singleness

I'm not even sure how to articulate my thoughts, but I just had to write them out.

The other day, I found myself listening to the Christian radio station, and a Pastor from Calvary Church was preaching about marriage and one of the reasons for it being, raising children for the Lord. He spoke from 1 Samuel when Hannah was broken before God, crying out for a child. In 1 Samuel 1 it says, "She [Hannah] was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly. …As she continued praying before the Lord, Eli observed her… Hannah was speaking in her heart; only her lips moved, and her voice was not heard. Therefore Eli took her to be a drunken woman. …Hannah answered, "…I am a woman troubled in spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord."

And then it got my mind rolling. I feel like the church as a whole generally looks on infertility and someone's longing to have children with compassion and understanding. Over all, most would understand the unfulfilled dream and longing of a couple's heart to have children.

And yet, I see single women around me - like myself - who would love to be married & to start their own families, and for whatever reason, they are shamed for such a desire. "Be content with Jesus! Jesus is enough. You shouldn't want marriage, if that's not what is set before you right now."

So alright… It's okay for Hannah to weep and cry out in distress for a God-given desire… but single women should somehow be shamed for desiring marriage? I don't get it.  Do we tell couples struggling with infertility, "Be content with Jesus! Your spouse is enough!" Oh, of course, Jesus should be utmost, central and above all in our lives, but is it wrong to weep over unanswered prayers and unfulfilled dreams? Is that a shameful thing?

I'm not saying every single lady with a desire to get married should go around trumpeting her desire to everyone she meets (as I've known of those), and it gets rather draining listening to. Like, seriously, could you stop obsessing over marriage? ;)

But what about those who have a deep, unfulfilled desire from God to be a helpmeet and mother? Should they just clam up about it in shame and guilt?

I confess, a couple weeks ago I was driving down the road, and I broke down in tears. (Which doesn't often happen… but it did this particular day.) It's hard to understand the ways of God. His ways are so much higher than my own.

To be truthfully and vulnerably honest, I can remember walking down the hallway in our California home as a 6 year old girl with my parent's wedding afghan draped over my head. I'd play the wedding processional from The Sound of Music over the loud speakers. YEAH. I guess I was a weird six year old already dreaming of the day when she would be a bride. My favorite pastime as a young girl was "mothering" my grey kittens, Precious and Fluffball. I would spend hours and hours with my dolls, treating them as if they were my children. But years past and time went. As an older teenager, I would occasionally bring up the topic of relationships, but it was immediately met with, "Don't even think about 'that stuff.' You're too young. You shouldn't even go there." (I still thought about it, but never talked about it.)

And more years passed.

Today I am an single young women closer to 30 than I am 20. Infact, I am just about THE only older single person in my church. And suddenly, it is very, very lonely. I no longer have single comrades to share unfulfilled desires. Instead, I am going over to friends homes to watch their children for an evening while they go out on dates. Maybe it shouldn't, but it does hurt and tug on a heart. "You're single because God is probably sparing you from having a BAD marriage," they've said. Okay.. but what about a GOOD one??

Does God see me down here? Did I miss the boat? Did I miss something somewhere? Because there certainly isn't anyone in my church or in my group of acquaintances. Someone suggested, "Sign up for E-Harmony!" UM, how about NO. (And I'll keep my mouth closed for any further discussions on the matter.)

So YES. Here I am. Single as ever.

I asked an unfamiliar pastoral mentor about my situation the other day. "Seek first the kingdom," was their reply, as if it was their fix-all "bandage" to my question. They meant well, and while I know they spoke the truth, how can they understand my lot, when they were married at 20?

I have unanswered questions, and I wonder why. Perhaps I'll never know. Maybe I will be the old lady with her cats, and God will give me the grace to be alone.

And so there you have it. You may be judging me tonight, but there it is - out in the open. And it's real.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Change of Seasons

Winter came, and is now gone. Everywhere around me, I see evidences of new life and a new season. Both figuratively and literally.

In recent news, my work situation was getting worse and worse the last several months, and I went through a couple abusive situations. Co-workers were leaving in droves. I didn't know quite what to do, other than to keep going and ask God for grace to stay there another day. 

Then one day in February, I happened to find a $5 bill on the ground. It had been several weeks since I had gone to Starbucks for a cup of coffee (because I was trying to save money), so I decided that that $5 was meant for me to go get a drink. I purchased the new Tiramisu Latte at the register and walked down to pick up my drink. I ended up getting into a conversation with the Barista behind the bar. He ended up offering me a job at his new Starbucks that he was opening! I stammered and stuttered in surprise. Wait, what? Did he just GIVE ME a job at Starbucks? But why not? That's like... a dream job, for somebody like me who drinks coffee like water.

So, you guessed it, the Lord so graciously orchestrated for me to get hired at a dream job. It was so unexpected, unplanned, and not thought up by me. God totally wow-ed me! 

With each day, I am LOVING my new job as a Starbucks barista and I am so grateful for the Lord's faithfulness & goodness to give me a wonderful job, a wonderful boss and wonderful co-workers.

The Lord has brought me through the last 12 (difficult) months SO faithfully and as the Spring season brings change and new life, I sense my life is also changing. I am beginning a new chapter in my personal life, and this makes me excited!

In closing, here are some iPhone images of my life the last couple of months...

A Valentine's day latte!

I found a NEW hipster coffee shop in old town, and I absolutely love it! Come visit me, and I'll take you there. :)

“The basic posture of the Christian life is waiting. Either we’re waiting on a spouse, or waiting for children, or waiting for a job promotion, or a bigger house, or our children’s salvation, or retirement… and ultimately every Christian is simply waiting for Heaven, for Christ’s return.” —Mark Dever

I was quite excited about the new Trader Joes that opened up 20 minutes from my house! I remember going to Trader Joes frequently with my Mother during the six years that we lived in Santa Barbara, California. It definitely gave me a love for it now.

My happy place on a Sunday afternoon. Coffee in hand at the bookstore

A visit to Park Church in Denver one Sunday morning

Yes. I totally went into a "man store" (Cabela's) to get a package of warm, cinnamon toasted almonds. It was SO worth it.

Lit a Meadow Showers candle the end of February and watched the movie, "Leap Year." One of my favorite quotes from it..

*as Declan throws Anna's suitcase into his vintage Mini-Cooper*
Anna: "Can you be careful with that, it was a gift from my boyfriend!"
Declan: "He bought you a suitcase?"

I got to together with a couple other single gals from another church and we watched the new Cinderella movie together. One of my favorite lines from this movie, "This is perhaps the greatest risk that any of us will take. To be seen as we truly are."

A coffee shop is a lovely place for an introverted soul to be still & listen. Older Christian men counseling younger men about emotions, young mothers & fathers bouncing their giggling babies on their knees, girlfriends playing cards and college students cramming on their laptops.

Hooray for new haircuts!

I did a (small) bedroom renovation by painting the walls "Essential Grey" from Sherwin Williams! I LOVE my new grey bedroom.

I went to old town to try a lavender infused espresso. It didn't quite meet my expectations - the lavender wasn't very strong... but it was still great espresso! 

One particular morning, I needed classical music, an orange scone & hazelnut coffee for breakfast, as well as some reminders of His love for me.

And then it was Spring…

Easter pretties.

Toasted Coconut Tea for the morning after Easter.

First day as a Starbucks employee!

I visited the Denver Art Museum for the first time!

It WAS a lovely afternoon on Capitol Hill in downtown Denver:

I'm a fan of Passports. :)

FREE cone day at Ben & Jerry's is totally worth celebrating. (I got coffee ice-cream. Duh.) ;)

Say hello to this new Starbucks barista!

"I go to the hills when my heart is lonely, I know I will hear what I've heard before, 
My heart will be blessed with the sound of music…" 

I was SO happy to see one of my favorite films on BIG SCREEN for it's 50th anniversary! 

(ps. Captain Von Trapp was my first crush as a little girl. Hehe.)

One afternoon I went to the coffee shop to write & to journal because the thoughts in my head were too loud… (Gotta love being an introvert INFP.)

Love my cozy Camp Socks from J.Crew!

I bought some Kona Coffee Dipped Shortbreads at Trader Joes.. and ate 3 of them in one sitting. So in case you're wondering, YES, I definitely recommend Kona Coffee Cookies. ;-)