How God has been showing up.

How God has been showing up.

Guys. What. A. Season.

A season where I've seen the Lord more active in my life than ever before. A season where I've learned the power, depth, and strength of prayer. A season where the community around me is literally embodying Jesus, oozing love and brokenness side by side. 

Life has been hectic lately, its been hard, yet there is this unbelievable beauty overtaking every single bit of it. I have been learning first hand what it looks like to lean into God, to sense his presence in the mundane and in the messy. I was asked not long ago, "How have you been seeing God in your life lately?" and after a huge breath I began to verbalize how I've felt towards the presence of God lately. 

This has been a season of challenges, of refinement, yet there has been no lack of God's presence. He has been in it all. The way I've seen God most powerfully is through people, through words they say, prayers they pray, the ways they show up. We are called as God's people to love one another, to show grace, to guide, to speak truth- I have known all of this. But now, more than know, I have experienced all of this. I truly don't know if there is a more beautiful thing than seeing people use their God given gifts to their full potential in community. That by no means implies that my community is perfect, actually far from it. I've also been learning the inevitable brokenness in community amidst every day life. There is no avoiding the fact that disagreements will be had, tears will be shed, hard conversations will be forced, awkward endings of conversations will happen, days will end in a way that you didn't see coming. What's interesting about this brokenness while in a community that is craving restoration and redemption, that those tough messy moments are often met with communication about WHY these things happen, with prayer over our brokenness and our craving to be in community. We can learn from this messiness. I think that we realize we are not alone in our imperfections when there is brokenness shining through amongst our people, we realize we need one another, but more importantly we need the Lord. I think during this season God has provided me with eyes to see the reality of true community colliding with the beauty of true community. In fact, I think that's been the theme of life lately for me, the realization that reality isn't JUST beauty. I've always been someone who's highly positive, who's full of joy, who craves it to be that way constantly. I hate imperfection when it feels messy, think Joy from the Disney movie Inside Out. In Inside Out Joy does all she can to fight off the other emotions, believing that not all emotions need to exist at once, and in the end she realizes that all emotions are necessary to live out life fully. That's basically my life lately, realizing that the painful challenging things tend to make the beautiful things a thousand times more beautiful. (Laughing at the fact that I just made a Disney reference.) 

My good friend Rachel shared this quote on my birthday last month that worded perfectly the reality of joy.

Our life is a short time in expectation, a time in which sadness and joy kiss each other at every moment. There is a quality of sadness that pervades all the moments of our lives. It seems that there is no such thing as a clear-cut pure joy, but that even in the most happy moments of our existence we sense a tinge of sadness. In every satisfaction, there is an awareness of limitations. In every success, there is the fear of jealousy. Behind every smile, there is a tear. In every embrace, there is loneliness. In every friendship, distance. And in all forms of light, there is the knowledge of surrounding darkness . . . But this intimate experience in which every bit of life is touched by a bit of death can point us beyond the limits of our existence. It can do so by making us look forward in expectation to the day when our hearts will be filled with perfect joy, a joy that no one shall take away from us.
— Henri Nouwen

I read this and my only reaction was, YES. That perfectly explained it. The reality is that our joy here on earth will NEVER be complete, and that's okay. It teaches us to be expectant to a day in the future where there will be perfect, complete joy that is only found in the Lord. That is a hard lesson for someone who wants every day to be filled with sunshine filled joy and celebration... HAH! But it's also a really beautiful lesson to learn, a lesson learned that many people who are close by seem to notice. I haven't had a lack of people around me mentioning my faith, and my outlook on the small beauties around me this year. I think those are little whispers from God reminding me that this refining season certainly isn't for nothing.

So through all of this I'm learning to see God in the little things. It doesn't have to be a big trip where you get to see God on hikes on mountains or at sunsets on the ocean or experiencing His fullness by seeing different areas of his beautiful world, or in a celebration filled day with your community, or in a trip to Ohio where your family seems to be in a great place (although these are all amazing ways to see Him.) It's in runs along the lakefront path where you're wanting to quit and then you look to your left and the sun is peaking through the clouds where the water meets the sky, or a Stans Donut with an iced coffee on a Monday morning, or in the 30 minutes of surprise alone time you get journaling in your favorite chair, or in a conversation with your client at Red 7 where they tell you they feel heard and cared for, or a Cold Brew Lemonade at Heritage. It's in the small, everyday things. He's in it all. All you have to do is ask Him to give you eyes to see, ask for the presence of the Spirit. It sure does make the everyday a whole lot more beautiful. 

Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
— Romans 5:3-5

All photos by Rachel Loewen.

#OurChicagoStories Summer 2017

#OurChicagoStories Summer 2017

Bridal Styled Shoot.

Bridal Styled Shoot.