Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?

Today I am getting married, but I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge that today is also the nine year anniversary of the Virginia Tech shooting.

Nine years ago, I was eating lunch in the cafeteria at Evangel University when I heard there had been a shooting at Tech. I only knew one person at Virginia Tech at the time: today he serves as Best Man at my wedding. As soon as I could, I headed back to my dorm room and messaged the only person I knew who would know if he was okay: today she is one of my bridesmaids.

I began praying for Tech, for this one Hokie I knew, and for his friends. I was very relieved when heard that he was safe and okay.

Not long after that, my great grandmother passed away. I arrived in Virginia the weekend after the Tech shooting, to a state that was orange and maroon. It was a somber sight to see flags, ribbons, and signs everywhere I went. As we mourned and buried my great grandmother on a sunny April day, my state and my country mourned as well.

In Romans, the apostle Paul writes, “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.”

On our third date, Jordan and I went to a national park for a simple hike and a lot of conversation. It was then that Jordan told me about his experience at Virginia Tech on that horrific day. It was then that I realized that when I prayed for Tech all those years ago, I had prayed for this kind, goodhearted, peaceful man.

It was also on that day that Jordan told me that if we were going to date, he wanted it to be a serious relationship. That he wanted more than just someone to hang out with. He wanted love and he wanted marriage.

And on that day, as I was still full of the uncertainty and giddiness that a new relationship brings, I heard a still quiet voice say very clearly, “This is for you, Beloved. This is My gift to both of you.”

For He makes all things good.

So today I’m marrying a Hokie, a Hokie I didn’t know nine years ago, but for whom I prayed and for whom today I thank God that he was kept safe. Today I get married in a little country church to a Hokie in front of Hokies. Today God will continue to fulfill his promise to make all things good.

 

But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.

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…

[I]n all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:24-28, 37-39

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The Return to Eden (And Now There Are Stars)

Two years ago, I wrote a poem I entitled “Unsettled.” Even though I enjoyed writing it, and even though several friends, family, and even strangers responded positively to it, there was a part of me that was sad to write it.

The problem with living an unsettled life is that it can be very tiresome. And lonely. But it was my life, and I was content.

I once asked God if I would ever meet a man who would woo and pursue me, and He reminded me that He had pursued me all my life and would continue to do so. I was content with God, but God wanted more for me.

So this poem is a response to “Unsettled” and to how much my life has changed in the last two years.

Continue reading

Harper Lee on Love

Lee in the balcony of Monroeville's local courthouse, in 1961 Donald Uhrbrock/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Image

Lee in the balcony of Monroeville’s local courthouse, in 1961
Donald Uhrbrock/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Image

“Love—In Other Words”

Harper Lee

Vogue April 15 1961, pp64-65

 

An excerpt:

Love transforms. Why is it that the quotidian we are seeking, when we can’t find it in the Bible or in Shakespeare, most often turns up in Don Quixote? Because Cervantes, from sheer love of life, made the nuances of life immortal. Why, when we are familiar with every line, must we stop and listen when “The Messiah” is playing? Because every note was born of a man’s love for God, and we hear it. Try this experiment: catch (if you can) someone who loathes baroque music; play for him any part of Semele, then sit back and watch his polite attention turn to compulsive attention–see your captive become Handel’s captive. Avarice never wrote a good novel; hate did not paint “The Birth of Venus”; nor did envy reveal to us that the square of the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the squares of the two sides. Every creation of man’s mind that has withstood the buffeting of time was born of love–love of something or someone. It is possible even to love mathematics.

The history of mankind contains innumerable testaments to the power of love, but none touches the transformation undergone by the otherwise cantankerous St. Paul when he addressed himself to the subject: loving, he wrote of love itself, and he gave us a miracle. Listen:

“Though I speak with the tongues of men and angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.

“And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing…”

After St. Paul, we have done our best, but our best has never come near him.

Love purifies. Suffering never purified anybody; suffering merely intensifies the self-directed drives within us. Any act of love, however–no matter how small–lessens anxiety’s grip, gives us a taste of tomorrow, and eases the yoke of our fears. Love, unlike virtue, is not its own reward. The reward of love is peace of mind, and peace of mind is the end of man’s desiring.

Read more here.

Top Ten Tuesday: Hook, Line, & Sinker

Words & Topics That Sell Me

 

For today’s TTT post, I looked at the books I’ve read for the past year and half. Reading over their blurbs and looking at their covers and genres, I did see a recurring theme: I like epic stories.

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and Bookish.

Happiness & Joy

instagram

Happiness is a warm hug. Happiness is a smile. Happiness is saying to a 5-month-old, “Give me five!” and she does.

Happiness is a cooing baby. Happiness is giggling over a pouty face. Happiness is sunshine and cool breezes and your fingers smelling like “the outside.”

Happiness is hundreds of instagram photos.

Happiness is the outpouring of joy.

Joy is making silly faces in public and not caring because it makes your niece laugh.

Joy is going home proudly smelling of spit-up.

Joy is holding your baby niece as she falls asleep in your arms while the pastor speaks of God. Joy is the warmth of that baby snuggled into your chest, her body rising and falling with the swelling of her lungs. Joy is realizing how great and powerful God is to create such a marvelous child. Joy is knowing that you are holding beauty itself. Joy is understanding that if you can love your niece so much that your heart can’t possibly contain it, then just how much can a parent love her child?

Joy is feeling completely humbled by the overwhelming love of God encapsulated in a child.

True Love

He leaned over and kissed her on the mouth, pulling away with a pop and a laugh, a sly remark. She swatted at him and told him to stop, but I could see she was pleased. Her cheeks were pink, and she was smiling so big her eyes were squinting.

She playfully pushed him away and went back to being my mother.

I sat at the kitchen table and observed what true love looks like: the little moments in between life.

I’m very thankful to have parents who have loved each other for 29 years.

Confessions of a TEFL Trainee: A Study in Faith

Experience: that most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God do you learn.
C.S. Lewis

“For I know the plans that I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.”
Jeremiah 29:11, NASB

I hate it when my mother is right.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve had a bad year full of really odd and stressful events that have pursued me, and while I’ve tried to just stand and take it, I found that I couldn’t cope.

And my mother did what all good mothers do – she told me the straight up truth and that I needed to trust in God.

And I did what all daughters do: I ignored her.

My bad year eventually turned into a crisis of faith – while I still believed in Jesus, I felt completely lost. I felt forgotten by God. I felt as if God had betrayed my trust and my faith.

By Christmas 2010, I was contemplating whether or not I could still call myself a Christian.

I had given God so much of my life, so much of my time, so much of my faith, and yet it felt as if I just wasn’t good enough.

In the end, I had come to the decision that I believed in God, but He didn’t need, didn’t want, and didn’t deserve my faith.

I was like a rebellious teenager who lashes out at her parents because she knows they’re the safest target because she’s stuck with them.

My sister and my brother were off being good little Christians, and I envied them because their faith seemed so real and fulfilling, whereas mine was desperate and distant. I felt like I was pleading with a brick wall whenever I prayed, but when they prayed, it was to a real Person.

“Then you will call on Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.”
Jeremiah 29:12, NASB

The day I before I left for London, I was a complete and utter mess.

I knew the truth, but it hurt so much to believe it, and I was so tired of hurting.

Stressed out from packing and all of the other tedious bits of traveling and moving that you never think about, I switched on my computer and immediately my friend Ashley O signed on.

Poor Ashley, I feel like I’m always coming to her with my problems.

I pounced. I hadn’t talked to Ashley in awhile because – to be honest – I just didn’t want to disappoint her. I didn’t want her to know what I was struggling with.
But at this point, I just couldn’t care, and so I launched into everything with hardly any preamble.

Ashley stuck it out, which amazed me. We talked for an hour, and when we were done, I had changed my life plans yet again in the space of five days. Ashley wanted me to forego London, but I just couldn’t do it.

When I left for London the next morning, my sister gave me a card and made me promise not to open it until I was on the plane – a sort of Harris family traveling tradition. The card was filled with Bible verse references. Both of my flights were terribly delayed, and so I read them all.

I was desperate, you see. I didn’t want to lose my faith because I knew it was the Truth – I just wanted to know that if I gave Jesus my all, He’d do the same for me because it had felt like He had dropped the ball in the past.

I got to England, and again I was overwhelmed – not so much with stress, not at first at least. That came later. No, I was overwhelmed with how excited I was. I realized just how bored of life I had allowed myself to become in the last year. Suddenly there were things to see and do and people to meet, and everywhere I looked there was something new to discover. I told one of my classmates the other day when she asked if I liked London that I felt this must be what it’s like for a newlywed on her honeymoon.

I felt happy –really happy, joyful, even – for the first time in a very long time.

“You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.”
Jeremiah 29: 13, NASB

And then classes started, and suddenly I didn’t have time to be with London – the most I saw was what could fit into the Tube. But again, I was busy – I had something to do.

That first week, I sat in Eat, which became my favorite place to – well, eat – with my classmate Anya.

We were discussing how we had gotten this far in our lives – what had led us to Southhampton Place – and as she listened to my story, something happened that hit me in the face like a double-decker bus:

God spoke through Anya.

She probably didn’t realize it. She was just saying what she thought, but to me, it was an audible voice from God, and I was overwhelmed by a sense of power and authority in my life.

Anya said that it was amazing how the events of my life had led so carefully and so purposefully to this decision to come to London. It was like it had all been planned for me.
I was chastened and extremely excited. For what, I wasn’t sure, but instead of feeling a terrible sense of guilt and running from God, I just kept going because I began to suspect that maybe I was running to God.

I went to Cheltenham and saw my friends, and I went to Church, and I cried to myself in the service. I hate crying in public, although I do it often (I always cry in movies, even the ones you’re probably not supposed to cry in), but I was again touched by the evidence of God’s presences and love in that church.

Then came the Riots, observed and critiqued lessons, projects that for some reason I couldn’t pass the first time and had to resubmit, and C grades and rain and long nights and falling asleep without brushing my teeth because I just couldn’t find the energy to do so.

There were crowded trains and cold weather and dodging umbrellas and blisters on my feet, and worse of all, no time to truly see my beautiful city.

I felt like I was living in a pressure cooker.

Sunday, August 21, I was sitting on the floor of my bedroom, and I just couldn’t take it anymore.

And I felt peace.

“I will be found by you,” declares the LORD.
Jeremiah 29:14a, NASB

It was the oddest thing: at the very moment when life should have been the most difficult – when the logical emotion I should have felt was despair – I just shrugged my shoulders, turned on my iTunes, and began to listen to JesusCulture.

I ended up getting my worst grade on a lesson yet the next morning – a “weak pass” – and while I cared, I really did, I realized something very important:

Pass or fail, I was still Emily Harris. Pass or fail, I still got to live in London. Pass or fail, I still learned something useful.

And most importantly, pass or fail, I was loved by God.

Conceding defeat was the moment I realized I was only losing a battle, not a war.

On Friday, August 26, 2011, I passed the TEFL course at Bloomsbury School of English with a C+, and I was certified by Trinity College, London.

I came to London with no clear view of who I was or what I wanted. I’ll be leaving London with a certificate and a purpose.

But most important, I’ll be leaving with my faith.

I am loved by the Creator of the universe. That’s more important than any piece of paper.

So, mom, if you would, please pass me another slice of humble pie.

Hooray! We did it! (V. Trofimova's picture)