Happy Tears

Yesterday was the best day I’ve had in forever. I laughed so much (like, all day I was laughing) that there were tears streaming down my face. Interning at church is so great, and so much better than anything I had ever expected.

This morning I was writing about it in my journal, just thanking God for this opportunity and praising Him for letting everything work out for me to get to do this. And I started crying happy tears again. Last year around this time, I was heartbroken because I had to leave a school I loved so much, people I love so much, and move back home, 9 hours away. I didn’t understand why God would send me there for me to love it so much and then take it away. And don’t get me wrong, the entire time, I knew He was good and good things were going to come out of it, but in the moment none of that really helped me deal with the grief I was feeling.

But y’all. God really did bless all of it. All of it. And I am so thankful.

It took moving away from Louisiana to realize that it isn’t people that push you to God, but it’s a choice you have to make. Yes, people help, but if you aren’t committed, you won’t go anywhere and stay.

It took moving away from Louisiana for me to get the opportunity to intern at church. The church I went to there had all the interns they needed. But here, I’m the one that gets to do the thing. Interning is a special treat, so much fun, nothing but joy. I really love the work I do and will get to do, and the people I work with.

It took moving away from Louisiana for me to be (maybe) put in charge of helping start a young adult/college ministry at my church. I’m screaming. I’m so excited. This is something that I can’t believe I might get to help start, to help build from the ground up. I hope and pray that the effort we put in this summer will flourish in the fall.

It took moving away from Louisiana for God to show me that Louisiana wasn’t my only dream or His only plan for me. He’s got so much stuff planned for me, so many dreams in my heart, and each are just as sweet, if not sweeter, than Louisiana. They’re all good. They’re all for me.

For the very first time, I’m kind of thankful that God brought me back home. I will always miss Louisiana, and I think I might always be a little sad that I didn’t get to graduate from LSU. But if I had stayed there like I wanted, none of the stuff that fills me with so much joy right now would have ever happened. None of it. And sitting here right now, I can’t imagine my life any other way.

As I was driving home from Louisiana this time last year, I was crying at how sad I was to go back home. I couldn’t wait until another opportunity to leave Macon. When I drove back to my house last night, it struck me that I would actually be pretty sad if I ever left Macon again. Of course I would do it, if it was in God’s plan for me. But I think I would be just as heartbroken leaving this dream.

I know my story isn’t over yet. I know there are more trials in my path, and even more celebrations. I don’t know what the rest of my life will bring. And I don’t know if I will recognize all of the troubles on the way for what they are. I didn’t realize what blessings the trouble of moving would bring, because for as hard as moving was, it has turned around and blessed me ten times more. That’s more than I could ever have asked for. So now all I can do is sit here with happy tears, praising God. I finally see the good. And man, it is so much better than anything I could’ve imagined.

The Ways God Speaks

I’ve been stressed out about the grades I made on my finals, and what I’d end up with in my classes. All week I’ve just been sitting and refreshing the grade thingy in my school’s system. All my grades were in by this morning, except for one–the one class I thought I might have possibly failed.

It’s really unsettling to feel like maybe you failed a class because of your final. I mean! I had a comfortable B rolling into that test, but when I left, I just knew I had bombed it. I’ve carried that feeling with me for over a week now. It was eating away at me.

And then today, when I was sitting in my room, reading a book and drinking coffee, God sent me a little message. There was a bird, sitting on my window. And I don’t mean a ledge outside my window. The bird was on the tiny ledge between the two panes of glass that make up a window. It was literally pressing itself into the glass to sit there. And maybe this wouldn’t be wild if that was the only place to sit, but there’s a tree right outside my window. So close it scratches the glass during storms, and if I open the window, some of the branch reaches into my room.

And for some reason, I just felt calm. Like God sent that little bird to press itself against the window to reassure me, “Hey, I know you’re really worried about this, but you don’t need to be. I’ve got this, and even if you fail, it’s not the end of the world. I still love you kid.” I just knew.

I knew this because birds are a big thing in my life. One of my best friends calls me little bird. When I moved back to Georgia, she gave me a string of lights with little wire birds on them and told me to Shine bright, little bird. Birds have become a comfort item to me. My next journal has a bird on the cover.

I love God. I do. I love Him for so many reasons, for saving me, for loving me despite the fact that I am a certified dumpster fire, for forgiving me over and over. I love Him because He pursued me even when I ran away, I love Him for showing me what He is capable of, and what I am capable of when I trust Him and let Him work through me. But mostly, I love Him because He speaks to me in a way that He knows I will understand. When I was stressed this week, He didn’t make a verse of scripture pop into my head. He didn’t send a text or a person this way that would say just the right words. He sent me my bird, pressing itself into me and into my life, to let me know that He’s here, pressing into me and pressing into my life.

You Turned My Darkness Into Dawn

I’ve been thinking a lot about the kind of girl I was in high school lately.

To be completely honest, I don’t like that girl. At all.

She was loud and rude and incredibly mean. Desperate to be “cool” and to fit in. She couldn’t understand why nobody wanted to hang out with her, and she hung out with people that maybe weren’t so nice either. But she didn’t drink! She didn’t smoke! She was a straight-A, 4.0 student, a model of what a non-rebelling teenage is!

I look back on high school now and I understand a lot more about life. Some of it is just because I have a little more life under my belt, but two years isn’t really the biggest gap. Mostly, I look back and understand because of Jesus.

I recommitted my life to Christ when I was sixteen, and maybe I’ll write more about that later, but that was a really pivotal moment for me. But still, that nasty girl who was just bitter and angry still existed. And she didn’t realize the kind of person she was, so she didn’t want to change. She knew she wasn’t perfect, but she didn’t realize how deeply flawed and broken she was.

When I moved to Louisiana for college, I started going to church for the first time in my life, and I actually developed a relationship with Jesus. And that’s when I started to change (Praise. The. Lord.) All of my bad hard edges got softer. I’m still sassy, but I’m kinder. I’m still feisty and hard-headed, but I’m willing to admit my mistakes and give. I am comfortable with who I am, and I like who I am. I don’t want to be like all of my peers, because I was not designed to be like them. I pick my friends carefully, so I won’t get dragged down to that place again. I kind of feel like the Grinch, like my heart grew two sizes that day. I definitely don’t want to go back.

And ya know, that’s what Jesus offers all of us. He offers to turn our darkness, whatever it may be, into dawn. To bring that nasty stuff out into the gentle light of the morning, and to fix it. Being on the other side of that, it’s so dang sweet what He does for us. It’s amazing the kind of transformation a person can have in such a short amount of time when Jesus goes to work.

So yeah. I’ve been thinking about high school me a lot lately, and when I do, I’ve been thanking God for the amazing Cameron-flip He’s done in the last two years, because I was a real fixer upper. I pray that He’ll keep changing and molding me into a person that is more like Christ and less like a person. And I go out into that dawn, birds chirping and pollen covering my car, ready to face the day and the changes ahead.

Sticky Note Gospel

Last week was rough. Actually, this entire semester has been rough. I’m in a bunch of weed-out courses. When I was scheduling last semester, my adviser wouldn’t let me take any more than my 16 hours because, as she said, “this is a bad schedule, but it’s the best you can do.”

So it’s hard. I feel like crying a lot because of stress. My grades are good considering the classes I’m in (I have all A’s and B’s), but they’re hard to maintain, and some of them still aren’t really where I want them to be to have final cushioning.

On top of all of that, I’m working 7 hours a week with one of the most inconsiderate, rudest teachers I’ve ever met. She tells kids she hates them, that she hates working at their school. She teaches me basic algebra and just points at me and then the kid I’m supposed to help. Doing that twice a week just kind of gets to you.

But, on my way to differential equations last week (definitely one of my hardest classes), while I was walking up the stairs, I saw something bright orange in the window in the stairwell. It was such a weird place for anything to be that I stopped to look at it. I honestly almost broke down in tears right there. I saw a little sticky note, with some messy scrawl on it in a verse I had never read before in Isaiah.

“When you pass through waters, I will be with you. When you walk through fire, you will not be burned, nor will the flame burn you. For I am The Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”

Isaiah 43:2

You know those moments where you’re just so down you don’t know what to do? I had been in one of those. And an unassuming little sticky note in an odd place was the thing that pulled me back up.

This semester is like my fire. It’s one of the many things I’m gonna face on my way to being an engineer. But when I walk through this fire, I’m not alone. No, I don’t have to take on so much school and work stress on my own. God isn’t only watching me walk through, He’s walking through them with me. He’s fighting these battles for me!

And yeah, I knew all of this before I saw the sticky note. But I realized when I saw it that that wasn’t how I had been living my life. I had been trying to do it all on my own, and I’ll never be able to do that. When things get hard, I need to run to Jesus. Cling to the cross.

I don’t have all the answers to life. I also don’t know how to take the Laplace Transform of sin(wt). (Okay, maybe that one I know, because it’s in my chart.) But I don’t need answers. I just need to remember the Guy who has them has my back, if I’ll ask Him.

The Third Round

“Hi. I’m Cameron. I’m from Georgia.”

When I lived in Louisiana, it’s how I introduced myself. I immediately wanted people to know that I was not from there, I did not understand all the things they said. I would need someone to explain things.

So hi. I’m Cameron. I’m from Georgia.

I’m not telling you this to get some explanation-I’m telling you this because the weather here, particularly where I live, has been awful. The National Weather Service is calling it a Particularly Dangerous Situation. The Walmart 12 miles away from my house had its roof ripped off yesterday. Things are kind of scary. I’m sitting in my house and all I know is things are bad (and also that the Falcons are winning, which is exciting even though I don’t care about the NFL).

I also know I’m terrified. People around me have luckily survived, but there is damage. It’s bad. And I’m thankful I live at home with my parents, and I’m not stuck in a dorm for this. I think I’d cry.

But this morning, in a brief reprieve from the weather, we took the opportunity to go to church. My mom didn’t want to. My sister didn’t want to. But I was determined. I’m glad I was, because during the service I was reminded today that He truly is a good, good Father. That He’s taking care of us, even through all of the uncertainty happening. That no person will ever be in control, only Him. What a comfort. He alone is in control here. And because He is a good Father, He will take care of us.

As the third round of tornado weather sweeps through, it’s a thought I’ll be repeating in my head. I’m scared right now, but I am so blessed. My family is alive. Our house and cars have sustained no damage. We still have power and water.

To quote the great Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore, “Happiness (and hope) can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.”

Loving This City

I see a really broken city around me, even though it’s not a city you’ll hear about on the news that much. See, I live in Macon. And around here, it’s got a nasty reputation.

You might be wondering how a city can have a reputation for being bad but not make national news. I don’t know. In the past year alone, some of the major news stories include:

  • a woman stabbing her boyfriend with a dog food bowl shard at the Waffle House (where’s @floridaman when you need him)
  • several police officers shot and killed
  • at least one person dying almost every single day
  • several house fires, many of which are suspected arson

That’s not even all of them. Or very many specifics (but if you google this place, it’s got a “very high” crime rate). And that’s just crime. It’s not really taking into account all the homelessness, the poverty rates, the unemployment rates. Macon is what you might call a broken city, and people hate it.

Honestly, I used to be one of those people. I moved 540 miles away from it and tried to shake away my past. “I’m from Georgia,” I’d say, but I’d never speak about Macon except with my closest friends. But I’ve been learning something since I’ve been put back in this broken city: the only way we will ever fix Macon is if we start loving it. How did Jesus heal people and places and situations and even my heart? With love. Undying, unfailing, would do anything for it love. Not running away. Not getting out. And even though money would certainly help improve some of the situations, money is not going to heal this city. Just love.

And to love a city, you’ve got to really feel a burden for it. You’ve got to hurt in your heart about how broken it is. You’ve got to feel passion and compassion. Loving is not passive. Loving is active. Loving a whole city is real active. You’ve got to really feel for it.

I’m not perfect at this yet. I’m not even good, really. But I’m trying my absolute hardest, and every day my love for Macon is growing. Even the other day, when my dad said “What could you expect, he’s from Macon?” I got a little offended.

I’m from Macon. It’s my home. And I think I’m turning out okay.

I’m from Macon. I used to cringe when I said that. But now I’m a little proud.

I’m from Macon. I’m learning to love it. And I think if we all could, maybe Macon would be the shining jewel it used to be.

Kiddos. And a Servant’s Heart

I think, if you look at my life, it would be fair to say I like kids. Like might actually be an understatement. I tutor high schoolers for work, and at church I volunteer in the student ministry and in children’s church. So I think I might like kids.

Sometimes, though, I wonder if I’m actually good at any of this. I mean, I haven’t been fired. The kids I tutor say hello and seem excited to work with me (and my coworkers). The kids at church like to say hello and talk to me. The students text me and seem to enjoy coming to group.

But am I good?

Do I do good enough?

Am I liked?

Recently I realized my questions were all wrong. It was really layed on my heart that maybe I would be much happier if I reconsidered why I do all these things.

Do I like tutoring?

Do I like hanging out with fifth graders?

Do I like meeting with students week in and week out and teaching them about God when they’re at a confusing time in life?

Yes. Yes I do. I love the kids faces when they realize they can do a problem on their own now. I love the babies at church who tell me all about their injuries and then scream Bible verses at me to prove they memorized them. I love the students who make me cry in prayer.

Friend, I hope you enjoy what you do. I hope you have a servant’s heart, where you see it’s about the things you do and not getting famous doing them. I hope you remember, even when praises don’t come, that the work you do is praise-worthy. And if you don’t, please ask yourself: is it just my perspective? If it’s not, move. Because if your perspective is right and you still aren’t satisfied, I feel like you’re being called to move into something new. But maybe, just maybe, all that’s wrong is that your servant’s hear needs some tuning.