Beyond the Sunrise

People say they find God in unexpected places, experiencing his presence in ways they haven’t in their day to day life. It may be a new church they weren’t planning to attend and it really connects to their heart, or meeting a person who embodies the kindness and compassion you can model your own life after. It’s that feeling of knowing God is with us and we are not alone in this big world.

I’ve had some trouble with this concept, as I am a creature of habit and I am a fan of my routines. I like my calendars and schedules, and I like following them even more. Finding God in unexpected places would mean I would have to actually go to unexpected places. If I didn’t plan for it, I’m probably not too keen on it or excited for it. Other people can jump at new opportunities with enthusiasm and eagerness. I prefer to keep my anxiety at bay with structure and predictability.

This is one of the reasons I haven’t been a huge fan of traveling. Trying to pack for the unexpected while also bringing your necessities would always throw me for a loop. You don’t know how much traffic there will be on the way to the airport, how long the lines will be once you get there, and if the flight will even be on time. For someone who has spent years trying to manage their anxiety, there are too many variables that could throw off my plans and send my heart for the races.

I’ve made a conscious effort to ground myself in my faith this past year. I challenged myself to know God personally and made a thoughtful decision to prioritize my faith. I was deeply committed to experiencing God’s presence in a way I hadn’t felt before, I just wasn’t sure what that looked like. I wanted to write more and share my faith through my words, but I couldn’t get a grasp on what I wanted to say.

I felt God so many times during my travels this past weekend. I saw Him in the kind Uber driver who was chatting about how he likes mornings because people are nicer and not in such a hurry. As I reflected on his words while walking to my gate, trying to consciously be both nice to people and not in such a hurry, I saw this gorgeous sunrise. I felt His peacefulness seep into my soul and ooze out into the fibers of my being.

There’s something about airports that I’ve grown to love. Maybe I’ve seen “Love Actually” too many times, or maybe I’m a sucker for a good make-believe story. People are eager for their much needed breaks, ready to go somewhere that has happiness stamped on the map. There are couples who are patiently awaiting trips to see family and kids who are thrilled for their vacations. I can’t help but feel their excitement bubbling over in anticipation of getting on a plane and taking off to somewhere new.

For some reason, I get a lot of inspiration at airports. More recently, I’ve felt God there too. When I am in the air and all I see out the window of the plane are clouds, I feel closer to God. It’s like being removed from the world below and looking at the life I think I’m living down there. Am I being kind like the Uber driver mentioned about morning people? Am I pursuing happiness or waiting until I am on vacation to do so? What will it take for me to trust God with my life the way I trust this airplane suspended across the sky?

My purpose in sharing this story is to have you to consider where you feel God’s presence. It could be in the comfort by your cozy fireplace at home or in the sweet serenity of a quiet table at Starbucks. I’ve found that when I am doing what I love, writing and connecting to others through my words, I feel God the most. It makes me wonder how many of us would see His light beam a little brighter when our souls are aligned with what we love.

Whether your feet are on the ground or miles high in the sky, I hope you find inspiration in the the places you go and the people you meet. I hope you give yourself the opportunity to do what makes you happy and to feel God’s love in all that you do. And lastly, I hope you have the courage to dream as big as the sky and to follow those dreams just beyond the sunrise.

Faith Over Fear

This past May, I boarded a plane to Disney World with the attempt to leave behind the stress and turmoil of reality and escape into a magical fantasy land. I checked my bag and waited for the plane to take off to my happy place. I was delighted to have the opportunity to dive into a book I am reading called, “Brave Enough,” a story about the author’s faith journey and advice with helping women get over their fears and flaws to live bold and free. While I picked this book off the shelf from my favorite used bookstore expecting another typical self help book, I was pleasantly surprised how the author discusses faith so intently weaved throughout each chapter.

That being said, I don’t know if it was the high altitude or the waking up at the crack of dawn that drew me into a foggy haze, but I sat on the plane and needed a minute to gather my thoughts as I read deeper into this book. The author mentioned that God’s love is the source of our bravery and strength, not our own abilities or goodness. She called it “Jesus courage” when we could tackle our challenges with our faith spearheading our actions.

As the author mentioned how God’s love was so full and abundant, I was a bit skeptical. What does it mean to love God in a way that I can accept and embrace the love he has for me? As someone who used to constantly question my own worthiness, I instantly took a step back with this concept. The author argued that the love God has for us overpowers what we think of ourselves. What a freeing notion that we are worthy and loved, exactly as we are!

I closed the book. My head was spinning and I couldn’t put the words together to describe how it felt to have my faith once again rattled into realizing that God’s love is something bigger than I could wrap my head around. I shut my eyes and listened to the family in the row behind me. The young girl was asking her mom where they were going and was trying to guess the answer. Now I will admit, I thought it was strange at first. Did the mother not tell her child where they were headed? Did the child not think to ask why the suitcases were packed? How could she get on a plane and not know the destination?

And then it crashed over me as if the plane had all of a sudden dropped down from the sky and landed on my heart. That is how you love God. You don’t need to know where He is taking you. It’s not a requirement for Him to tell you every life plan He has for you. Sometimes you need to let Him pack the bags and put you on a plane, knowing that He is the pilot and you will land where you need to be.

I picked up the book again, still in disbelief that God was communicating to me in a way that He know I would understand. The author continues to talk about reading the Bible and the practice of prayer. She mentioned how it takes courage to approach the Bible with the belief that God has something to say to you, and that we first must admit our prayer with confession. If we cannot confess what is standing in the way of becoming closer to Him, we will not be able to achieve that intimate relationship.

I was long overdue for some prayer time. After the encouragement from this book, I put my prayer together and I prayed for two things. One, that I would have a sign for God that loving Him and following His word was a path I needed to pursue. I confessed that I started this faith journey as something to explore and to prove a point to myself that I could hand over the reigns. I prayed that God would see my honest attempt to connect with Him in a meaningful way.

And the second prayer was that I made the right decision in looking for other jobs. I was scared to move beyond where I was comfortable, and I confessed that comfort was something I was definitely okay with. I took pride in my job and didn’t want to lose that by going somewhere else. I prayed that God would offer me a light in this tunnel and comfort me in this difficult decision making time.

So I got off the plane and headed towards the bus that would bring us to our hotel. I peered out the window as the bus took off, and I gasped when I looked at the sky. A plane had written “Love God” in the sky. I was in complete awe that I had prayed God would see my feeble attempt to follow His word, and my prayer for a sign I was on the right path was answered. Clear as day, God revealed to me that I am His child and I am doing exactly what He has guided me to do.

A few weeks after my trip, my sister sent me a job posting in D.C. that looked like something I might be interested in. I was hesitant to apply for anything out of my comfort zone, and I was afraid to apply for something in a different location than where I was currently living. But this job was working with volunteers, something I really enjoyed doing, and I was encouraged by my family to apply. After several various types of interviews, the manager said to me that I seemed very calm about the whole application and interview process. While of course I wanted to make a good impression and present my best self, I was surprised at how calm I actually felt. It was a peaceful feeling that I couldn’t quite put my finger on.

I was putting groceries away in my fridge one day and I saw my star word from my church. A word printed on a cut out star is given to each person in the congregation on Epiphany Sunday to celebrate the wise men who followed the North Star to Jesus. The word is supposed to be a guiding light for the year ahead. My word was “childlike” and I will fully admit I was disappointed. I had absolutely no idea what it meant and I liked to think I was a mature person, so this word didn’t identify with me. But I stuck it on my fridge and figured I would make meaning of it one day.

After I was offered the position and accepted, I made the connection that the job was located at a children’s hospital, and my star word was childlike. A word that was given to me at the beginning of the year finally made sense. God’s plan for me was already made back in January, and I just hadn’t known it yet. This was the answer to my second prayer, the light in the tunnel that I needed. The calm I was feeling was actually God’s presence, I just didn’t know how to identify it.

God is here, and I am a believer. I am His child, and His love knows no bounds. What a blessing it is to receive His unconditional love! May you feel the joy of being loved and the grace of his presence.