Mary Grace and I are in my Ford Escape driving on 700 E, I think heading home from dinner at Ben and Rachel’s on a Monday night, I can’t quite remember.
MG snags my phone and the aux cable like she always does when we’re in my car. She says she has a new song to show me. It’s by Jon Bellion, her favorite artist, who had come out with a new album a few days prior. I like that she likes Jon Bellion, too. Some people crap on Jon Bellion.
What if who I hoped to be was always me?
And the love I fought to feel was always free?
What if all the things I've done
Were just attempts at earning love?
'Cause the hole inside my heart is stupid deep
The song mostly repeats these phrases for three minutes. It’s dark out, so neither of us notice the other has tears in her eyes until it ends. The rest of the drive, we talk about the ways we’ve been striving, the things we’ve been trying to fill our stupid deep, God-shaped hearts with lately.
I think the tears come because the lines are freeing “what if’s.” In this season in particular, they are words that embraced me with a hug I didn’t know I needed.
I’ve long waffled between extreme pride and extreme self-deprecation. Pride when I succeed. Self-deprecation when I fail. Either way, I’m my own worst enemy who will never be fully satisfied with my performance. I am imperfect and designed to stumble – so why would I stake my life on my own merit and ability? Why should I continue to strive, knowing that I will never realize my futile idea of perfection? What if who I am at this moment is all that is required of me?
What if who I hoped to be was always me?
And why measure my worth based on other people, whose approval will ultimately fail me, too? Their opinions – good or bad – are fleeting, fall short of my expectations, breed a reliance on the words and actions of others towards me. Be it praise from the attorneys I work for. My family’s approval of my decision-making. A test score. A double tap.
I think I’ve spent most of my life focused on these two things: what I think of myself and what others think of me. Which is weird, because if you had asked me four months ago if I consider myself a people pleaser I would come back with an “Absolutely not.” I’ve taken pride (there it is again) in being independent in thought, word, action. Those types of girls don’t need your opinion. They didn’t ask you.
But I care more than I let on. Most people care more than they let on.
The gross reality I’m learning is that trying to maintain appearances, trying to maintain perfectionism, is incredibly self-centered. Because it’s entirely focused on ways I can glorify myself, not glorify the God I claim to serve. The God who says His power is made perfect in weakness, not strength. The God who says his grace is sufficient for me.
What if the love I fought to feel was always free?
In his essay “The Weight of Glory,” which I read for this first time this month, C.S. Lewis speculates what the believer’s first moments in eternity might look like, when the only approval that truly matters is finally gained:
“...What may happen when the redeemed soul, beyond all hope and nearly beyond belief, learns at last that she has pleased Him who she was created to please. There will be no room for vanity then. She will be free from the miserable illusion that is her doing with no taint of what we should now call self-approval. She will most innocently rejoice in the thing God has made her to be, and the moment which heals her old inferior complex forever will also drown her pride.”
Inferiority and pride, healed and drowned. Freedom from self-promotion, self-protection, self-involvement. Approval from the One who loves me simply because I am His daughter. Because I am created in the image of the Maker of the Universe, not because of any exceptionality of my own.
This is altogether different from the messages of the world that tell us, “You haven’t done enough. You are not enough.” Our God tells us, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
There’s a lot about my decision to move to Utah – to join a program many don’t understand, to be a follower of Jesus in Salt Lake, to choose to work a part-time job rather than secure a full-time gig like many of my recently-graduated friends, to take a risk in submitting law school applications for next fall – where I have worried about what the world thinks of me, how I measure up.
There a few more lines in Bellion’s song that particularly struck me in the midst of this:
What if where I've tried to go was always here?
And the path I've tried to cut was always clear?
I think the “here” I’m arriving at is a fuller understanding of Who I should be seeking approval from and, by extension, what I devote my life to: seeking to know God more, following Him in joyful obedience, being a good steward of my time and gifts, loving others well, enjoying the things He has created with thanksgiving.
I’m thankful the “here” God is using to draw me closer to His heart is SLC. And I’m thankful His path is always clearer and freer than the one we pave ourselves.
10 Things About Me
Back in March, I was accepted into the Salt Lake Fellows program. I was ecstatic at the acceptance email in March. Per my entire senior year being full of curveballs, I really enjoyed getting an ol’ fastball. After accepting my Fellows program later in March, I finally knew what I was doing for the next year.
Over the next 4 months, I continued to search for a job in Salt Lake City, graduated, worked on my Beyond Malibu trip, spent lots of quality time with friends, graduated and worked events over the summer. To say the least, the 4 months before moving to Salt Lake City was packed full of life: not trusting God, being proven wrong by God and growing so much in my faith. I wish that I could show you what those 4 months were like. Take you, to my school’s library where I applied for jobs and planned Beyond Malibu. Or take you to the taco meals I had hosted at my house. Maybe, take you to finding out I graduated college while working in Colorado Springs. Most of all, I wish that I could show you what Beyond Malibu was like and how close I got to those friends. We will never be able to truly show our current friends, moments without them, but we can try to do so with some words and pictures.
Pictured above are the friends that flew and drove across and out of the country with me. The trip changed my life forever, which is why I had to show a picture of my mountaineering friends.
My Fellows experience hasn’t exactly been what I expected. Well what did I expect? Hmm, I dunno.
I have struggled a lot with wanting to be in this new place. A place away from all of my friends in Maryland. A place where I don’t yet have multiple schools to pour into. A place where, thus far, I only really know Christians. Don’t get me wrong, Salt Lake City is incredible. The mountains are 25 minutes from my house and world class skiing is my backyard. Salt Lake City is the ultimate playground without having to sacrifice people and a career. However, I still struggle to find myself at home in this new place.
The question, “should I stay?” comes to my mind bi-weekly. I wish that this wasn’t true, but I struggle to stay in this place. In my attempt to be honest, I understand that I can't quite pinpoint the reasoning for my “lack of comfort here.” If I desire to be challenged then learning to be comfortable with being uncomfortable should be on my agenda. Learning to be comfortable in this new place despite my discomfort should be the agenda.
At worship tonight, we talked briefly talked about Paul looking past his sufferings as his eyes were fixed on Christ. In my situation of missing home, I need to fix my eyes on Christ past this discomfort, because he is my king. I love him so much and I am learning he is all I need.
I have everything I thought I wanted, yet I can still feel empty. Mountains are close by. Job is a great opportunity. I have friends. But I still find myself empty handed. God has taught me a simple lesson: all I need is him. No job, nor mountain, will fulfill me, yet only God can. As I attempt to live this great story of trial and failure, I cannot forget that He is near. God is good and no matter how empty I am, he will never leave me.
In the midst of all this, I desire to love the people that God puts in my life, even if I desire to be somewhere else. It is the ultimate struggle: to love when it is hard.
Before I came to Salt Lake, I read the majority of last year’s blog posts from previous Salt Lake Fellows. John Wilson Booth is a Fellow from last year, who, in his second semester blog post, wrote about being lonely in a new city and the difficulties of adjusting to post-grad life. In his blog post he says:
“All of these ingredients have been combined into a dish I’ve never been served before, loneliness, and I’m eating it alone at an Applebee’s at 10 o’clock on a Saturday night.”
Adjusting to not having a million plus friends within an hour of me is a task a lot of post-grads go through. Over the past three and a half months, I may not have been at an Applebee’s on a Saturday night, but I have eaten the loneliness dish. Served in the form of a late-night workout or a random feeling of sadness, which all pulls me to have a greater desire to answer the “Should I stay?” question with a ‘no.’ Like I said earlier, if I desire to be challenged then how can I act on a ‘no’ answer. My desire to love others with a passion cannot shy away, because I desire to be somewhere else. That is why I need to be here as I attempt to cook, to listen, to work, to serve, to run, to hike up a peak with a friend, to ski and to love with all that I know. I am working through my failures to care for others around me as I have been learning to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Maryland got the perception of this goofball, who slacked around with school. Salt Lake has gotten this perception of the Googler (what Google employees are called), who has his career in order and is all business. The reality, I am just Peter. I am a strange person, who desires to love God and others with an intelligent, yet reckless pursuit. I desire to give back with the resources I have. I am a child of God, who seeks day by day to reconnect more and more with his Savior.
10 Things I Recommend
7:34am Wake up, stumble around the room in the dark trying to get ready for work without waking up roommate. Whip up some chocolate chip pancakes, start the coffee maker, and grab my lunch from the fridge while the Google home I got for free tells me about the weather, the traffic, and the news. If I am really on my game I’ve gotten ready fast enough to have ten minutes left over to read my Bible before I head out the door. If for once I am on time to leave for work, I of course then remember my car will be covered in frost which takes an extra few minutes. Oh well.. Utah Time.
8:33am Arrive at work jamming out to a playlist the Fellows made together on Spotify. Sit in my car for a second and take a deep breath preparing myself for a day of caring for six month old twins. I walk in the house and my boss greets me and kindly offers some coffee. I greet each of the babies with a quick snuggle.
8:52am The days cycle begins—Play with the little ones of the floor for a while until someone gets fussy. Warm up bottles and feed them then begin the juggle of trying to get two babies to sleep at once. Eventually they are both down and I have a few minutes to tidy up the house, do some dishes, and then maybe read a little. When they wake up we’ll get bottles then bundle up for a walk. I pop them in the stroller and head out for a walk. Even though I start walking in the opposite direction I somehow always end up at the coffee shop around the block buying myself a chai latte with a shot of espresso and a bear claw. I think it might be partially because the baristas are girls my age and it’s nice to talk to a grown up since my “co-workers” can’t form words yet. Anyway, when we get home we do it all again a couple more times. Bottles, naps, diapers, play…. Some days they are crying more than they are not—so much so that it makes me cry. But then other days they go to sleep in 3 minutes and wake up smiling ear to ear for hours. Sometimes I hate my job and go all day thinking about quitting. But then others the mom comes home and I am sad to leave them.
1:13pm On Mondays I get off early so I head up to Brighton to ski for a couple hours. It is pretty cool to live somewhere where I can leave work and be at the top of the slopes in 37 minutes.
6:01pm Arrive at the Loho’s house where we will all eat dinner together and catch up on our weeks. We play a couple games as a group, then Justin, another fellow, leads us in a time of worship, confession, sharing, and prayer. I honestly love Monday nights. Even though sometimes I hate walking in the door. If I have a hard day at work or am just tired the last thing I want to do is be around a big group of people. But then Lauren walks up and hugs me. Then Grayson and I do our secret handshake. Then Katie does something that makes me smile. Dana can see I am in a foul mood so she just lets me sit next to her and cuddle. Ben shares some deep metaphor. Anyway, somehow the night always make me feel happy inside. Sometimes at the end of Monday nights I just sit on the couch and think about how much I love these people and how much I appreciate being loved my them.
9:46ish pm Head home and reflect on the day, plan out tomorrow, maybe chat with a housemate for a while when we get home. Then I head to bed.
7:34am Wake up and repeat morning from Monday. Head to work. By some miracle both babies are already down for their nap when I get there so I study for a while before they wake up and we repeat our day.
6:03pm Head to community group. For me, and introvert, Sundays can be hard at church. There are so many people to talk to but you don’t really know many of them all that well. This is where community groups come in clutch. I enjoy getting to spend time with a few families at a time. We all eat dinner together and I chat with a couple ladies. They we send all the kiddos to another room and talk through a Bible passage. After a while of exegesis, we go around the room and share what’s on our hearts so we can be praying for each other. Another of my favorite nights of the week.
8:32pm Stop by Trader Joe’s on the way home, partially because I need groceries, but partially because I am craving some chocolate covered, peanut butter filled pretzels. Get home, cook lunches for the rest of the week, then head to bed around 10pm. I am in bed for two seconds when my roommate walks in. It feels like we haven’t talked to each other in days, so we chat for a while about life, jobs, which ski jacket to buy, and which coffee shops we’ve been frequenting. Actual bedtime: 11:32pm.
7:34am Alarm goes off. I ignore it.
8:03am I wake up in a panic, throw some clothes on, grab a granola bar and lunch, and head to work.
4:32pm After 5 poopy diapers, 6 naps, 8 bottles, tons of spit up, slipped coffee, and lots of tears later, I am off work and head to meet a friend for a walk around Liberty Park. Each week we have a one-on-one meeting with another fellow so we are able to build closer relationships with each member of the group. In a group of twelve fellows, there are going to be some people you are closer to than others, so sometimes one-on-ones are fun and light-hearted and chill and other times they are way deep and you share hard things and struggles. Either way, they are a valuable part of the fellows experience.
6:38pm Come home and crash for a while. I start to walk upstairs to my room but stop by my housemate’s room to say hey for a minute. Next thing you know, its several hours later and the whole house is sitting around her room asking each other questions from an article titled, “36 questions to ask on a date.” Eventually we tire out and trickle out to our rooms for bed.
7:21am Alarm goes off a little early this morning in a vain hope I might actually make it to work on time and in matching socks. Nope.
8:36am I roll up to work and walk into two hangry, crying kids. Mom in a panic running late for work apologizes and runs out the door. An hour later both kids have been soothed, changed, fed, and are asleep. I shut the door to their bedroom and tiptoe down the hall only to realize in my rush I left my lunch on the table instead of putting it in the fridge and the dog has helped herself. Oh well. I’ll load up my double stroller and head to the coffee shop for lunch later.
4:39pm I am off work and drive to my mentor’s house. As part of the program, each Fellow gets paired with a mentor from the church or community. Basically just someone a little older to build a relationship with and check in with. The Smiths are fun and quirky people. They feed me a lot which is also a plus. After their kids go to bed we sometimes do puzzles, or eat ice cream with rainbow sprinkles, or sometimes just sit on the couch and talk about life.
9:12pm I leave my mentor’s house and head to the other girls’ apartment where the girl fellows are having a wine night. We sit around drinking wine and chatting about anything and everything.
11:46pm Home and bed.
7:34am Alarm goes off and I lay in bed scrolling through Instagram for a while before rolling out of bed and getting ready. I grab my book I am suppose to have read and take it to work to hopefully skim before class the afternoon.
8:32am I arrive at work *almost* on time. By some miracle both twins take a two hour nap at the same time and I am able to get my reading for class almost finished.
1:02pm I leave work and drive to class at the library. As usual everyone is roughly 10-15 minutes late, but eventually class starts. Every week is slightly different, but in general we have a speaker from the community for two hours and Ben, our director, leads a book discussion for a couple hours.
6:00pm The library closes and we head to family dinner. Every other Friday a family from Church graciously welcomes us into their home and provides us dinner and company. Sometimes this is super fun and I love being around the Fellows. Some weeks I leave as soon as I deem it socially appropriate because I’ve had a crap week and I am ready to be in bed. Either way, it is a good time to be together as a group for a while.
9:57am My alarm goes off and I mosey down stairs to eat some cereal before heading to the grocery store and run a couple errands.
11:46am My housemates and I are sitting around the living room trying to decide what on earth to wear/bring on this adventure Ben has planned for us. We know we are snowshoeing but we don’t know where or how far plus none of us have any clue what to wear for snowshoeing. Eventually we make our bets and drive to meet at the trailhead.
1:44pm The group straps on our snowshoes and heads into the woods seeking whatever adventure might lay ahead. After tripping over my awkward feet about six times and falling face first into a snowdrift 3 feet high, I finally figure out the whole snowshoe thing and start catching up with the rest. We wander into the woods for about two miles we find a cool frozen over lake and stop to play for a while. We take some pictures, throw some snowballs, and laugh lots before turning around to head back.
4:48pm We make it back to cars and thaw out our fingers before heading in Park City to wander downtown and eat burgers at Squatters.
8:21am My alarm wakes me up for Sunday school then church. After church we have a potluck and I chat with a couple friends. Sunday afternoons and evenings are a nice resting time to chill or do whatever before the week starts all over. This particular week I went to a bookstore to Christmas shop for a couple hours.
7:08pm I am back home and get snuggled up in my pj’s to write a blog post. Meanwhile housemates wander in and out and we chat some about our weeks and such. A lot happens in a week. Good, hard, boring, busy. But I honestly wouldn’t have it any other way.
I was a smart kid growing up. Really, I was a NERD. Studying all the time, making all A’s and exceptional test scores, receiving awards... I was known to always have a huge stack of flash cards with me if that tells you anything. In high school, I felt secure in the praise I received from success.
So fast forward to college which was full of jumbled up plans for my future. Changing my major three times, I obviously did not have a clear idea of what I wanted to do. Once I made it to junior year, I felt all the stress of the future. I felt self-conscious about what I was studying at the time and felt like it wasn’t enough or that I wasn’t using my brain in the way that I was capable of. I tried to band-aid this feeling by taking classes like physiological psychology, anatomy and physiology, cognitive psychology, etc. While I struggled through it, I found that same security that I did in high school when I came out of the semester with all A’s and a great GPA and the satisfaction of conquering hard
classes. I felt smart and successful and I felt good about maintaining that image. In the midst of my “career-identity-crisis”, I applied for nursing school and was crushed when I didn’t get in so I convinced myself that I would eventually get a masters because an undergrad degree in psychology just wasn’t enough.
When graduation rolled around, I decided to take the year to participate in the Salt Lake Fellows program and spend a year focusing on God, in hopes that this would provide some clarity in a career. However, 3 months in and I feel like I am moving further and further away from actually knowing what I want to do with my life. In reality, I am realizing that maybe what I wanted to achieve in life, or felt like I needed to achieve in life, is not what God wants me to achieve in life. The past few months have been hard- moving across the country to a strange city, leaving all of my community, not being a student after pretty much doing that for the majority of my life. I am in a season of grieving all of this, but also grieving that I am being stripped of the person I found my identity in. Seeking a sense of identity, I tend to reach for tangible things, like an “important” job. But as a Christian, we are challenged to seek something, Someone, who is not physically tangible. We are called to put our hope in Christ because He is who gives us our identity, but hoping in Christ isn’t a concrete thing we can grasp.
I’ve realized how badly I desire to have a clear plan of what to do professionally and that this desire includes doing something important, life changing and successful. But when these expectations aren’t met and I don’t have answers about grad school or about a job after the next 8 months, I am disappointed. In this sense, searching for my identity the past 3 months has been painful. I’m sitting in the tension of the unknown and waiting expectantly for God to make His plans clear to me, but I’m learning that this is the tension that we are called to live in.
The cool thing is that God has met me in the tension and I believe that sitting in this unknown place has revealed to me more of my identity than any of my tangible desires have or will. I’ve seen his provision in placing me at a school that is so uniquely fit to my love of the outdoors, art and diversity; in the opportunity to fulfill my wants that are so miniscule, like learning Spanish, being certified in Wilderness First Aid and even learning more about my bike. I’ve seen God working through my job in the empathy that I’ve experienced with my kids and the transformation I’ve seen through having a relationship with them. If I would have skipped this in-between place because I was desperate for success, purpose and identity through a masters or a “successful job”, I would have missed all that God is showing me now. I would have missed the ways that He has gifted me, for all that He is doing at my school, in my life, in these kids- all things that ultimately point me back to Him, where my identity is ultimately found.
So, with all of that said, I still don’t know what I want to do with my life and I don’t know if I will ever have that clear answer. Instead of trying in vain to figure that out, I’m learning to sit in the intermediate where God brings us to depend on Him more. Sitting in that tension is uncomfortable but I am learning to embrace it, seek God in that place and have faith that He will continue to meet me there.
Community has always been hard for me; living in fear of conflict and confrontation, I routinely choose myself over others because it seems easier. In these first two months of Salt Lake Fellows, I have already been forced out of my comfort zone, living in community and therefore accountability. Sin cannot be hidden when you’re never alone.
I brought my dog out to Utah, a semi-unconventional request for a Fellow which caused a lot of anxiety. I knew I was asking a big favor from our directors and it was a long conversation that did not come to completion until just a week or so before I drove out from North Carolina. In light of that, I didn’t want to bother them with any more conflicts, even though I had a big one. My best friend was getting married in October and I had been asked to be a bridesmaid. Although I was unsure of our detailed Fellows schedule I assured my friend I would be there. However, I wasn’t being honest to my friend or my Fellows directors. I have a very unrealistic “everything will work out/be alright” mentality mostly because I am afraid of the idea that it won’t. Fast forward to our orientation retreat where the schedule for the entire year was given out. I immediately turned to the second weekend of October, anxious to see what I would be missing in Utah for the wedding back home. I read “Adventure Retreat”, and immediately knew it was something far more extravagant than our weekly “Adventure Excursion”. Once I was informed that this weekend would entail a trip to Moab for Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, my heart dropped. Big decisions kick my anxiety into overdrive. I would have to have a hard conversation and I had to decide with who it was going to be.
Naturally, I sat on the decision for another month, or if I am being honest, avoided calling my best friend to tell her I would not be flying home for the wedding. As an Enneagram number four I tend to dramatize situations, not intentionally but it always happens and I was definitely dragging this out more than I ever should have. I was living in a constant state of anxiety in September, mulling over the confrontation I needed to have with my friend, but not wanting to do so and my fellow Fellows started to catch on. After talking with Rachel and Ben, who are amazing listeners and advice-givers, I bit the bullet and conducted the phone call that had to happen and it was REALLY hard.
ALL this to emphasize how much this program and this community has continually challenged me since the moment I arrived in Salt Lake City, forcing me to be honest and be open and unable to hide my shortcomings. Choosing to join the Fellows in Moab for a 3 day/3 night desert adventure was immediately so clearly necessary for me and I felt secure in my decision to stay in Utah for that time. That weekend marked our group’s two month anniversary which was really sweet because it provided us with three glorious days of much-needed rest from the monotony of the day to day, to just enjoy each other and enjoy creation. Hiking, hanging out and experiencing a new climate and landscape that, I believe, was the first for most of us, was beautiful. And the ability to experience this together was transforming relationally. I was able to have so many edifying conversations and learned in a deeper way, how getting to know others is a never-ending journey and that there will always be depth to uncover and explore together.
SLF Class of 18-19
Coming into the Fellows community I was absolutely terrified. I had no idea what I had
gotten myself into. I knew absolutely nothing about these people I was about to spend the next
ten months of my life with or even that much about what this program would actually look like. All that kept going through my head was fear about not being accepted. I was used to communities back home revolving around always having to be “on”. Always having to be bubbly and positive, I was worn out from putting on this front. Completely exhausted, I just wanted to be a member of this community, but not have to put in so much effort. My introverted self was screaming for rest.
Before coming to the Salt Lake Fellows, I had never truly embraced my introverted self. I never felt
like it was an option. I always felt like the odd one out because I would have these moments
where I just needed to be alone for a while. Everyone I was around in college seemed to thrive
off of being around people constantly, whereas I just wanted to hideaway for days in order to
feel like myself and gather my thoughts.
It has been a new experience for me, to come to a place where there were others so
open about being introverted. It is so refreshing. It has also been so reassuring, to know that it
is not wrong to need to be alone sometimes. That it is possible to be a member of a community
and be an introverted individual. It’s encouraging to know that I no longer have to feel the need
to constantly be “on”. I can take time to be alone and not have fear of being judged for it..
I mean sure, it was hard at first and it still can be hard. Often times in class you can find
me journaling away about the thoughts going through my head. Just trying to make sense of
everything while being in a room full of people. It’s still a struggle to be present, but it’s a
struggle that I so deeply want to work towards overcoming. I am slowly, but surely, fighting my
way into this group. Fighting against my own giants in order to fully be myself in a group of
forced friendships turned family. It’s a daily struggle, but for what feels like the first time, this is
something that I want. Something that I want to fight for, no matter how hard it might be
So my fellow Fellows, thank you for accepting the introvert. Thank you for allowing me
to embrace this part of myself. Even if you didn’t realize it, I truly appreciate it. I can already tell
that this year is going to be filled with so much growth. Growth for us as a community and our
individual selves. So let’s get comfy, it’s going to be an epic ride.
“This is my command—be strong and courageous!
SLF Class of 18-19
When I was in college, I was the doodler. I have journals and journals full of notes on Chemistry with pictures of mountains and streams all throughout. I am not good at drawing, but mountains are not hard to draw. Mountains are simple to draw, and simple to the eye, but climbing mountains is very complex. When I arrived in Salt Lake City, I was told the first thing that we would do together as Fellows was climb a mountain together. We drove out to the Uintas, a beautiful mountain range to the east of Salt Lake City where we would pack our way up to the base of Ostler Peak and Lake Amethyst. The group of us that were in the Fellows program came to involve ourselves in community and this was the first time that we would all hang out. The hike was about five miles to the place that we would be camping and the hike was grueling, but I think that was really important to that first time together.
There is this old video that REI put out about an ultra runner that I love. In the video he is talking about the fellowship of the sport and he says something that I find so true about life. “Suffering breeds comradery”. As we all hiked gasping for air we laughed about it, and it brought us closer. After a few hours of hiking, we made it to our campsite, a massive meadow below huge peaks that spanned every direction. It was something out of a dream. There were flowers all over the meadow and even a stream that ran through it where one could see trout darting around from rock to rock. We even went up to a small lake and jumped in the icy cold water. It took your breath away the moment you touched it, but after a long hike with a pack on, it was exactly what we all needed. As the sun set we built a fire and sat around for hours talking and laughing. We played games and told stories and it didn’t feel like anyone was a stranger. It felt like we were already 3 months into the program.
That night we all huddled up in our tents and experienced our first rain in the high elements. We got blasted by rain and there was lightning flashing and we were getting wet as we slept, but we were happy. I remember waking up, and building a fire the next morning while shivering with a smile ear to ear. I was excited about my new community and all the hard things we had already gone through together. I thought about that quote over and over, “suffering breeds comradery”. All we were doing was growing closer out there in the mountains. The next day we took some time to go be by ourselves in the mountains. I sat on a huge rock scramble for a bit and watched the marmots and pikas poke their heads out at me. I got to use that time to pray for the year and what I wanted out of this year.
For some people I think this program is a year of rest, or maybe a lull between undergrad and graduate school. For me, this program represents new beginnings. I always knew I wanted to move west after school and now I had the chance to be in a place I really connected with (SLC). This program had created a healthy community for me, which is not something to be taken for granted. This past summer I learned about just how important love is. In case you were not aware, love is everything (1 Corinthians 13; John 15). I was realizing as I sat on those rocks that with this new beginning came new opportunities to learn how to love well. I was going to be surrounded by people that were both easy and hard to love at times and I really suck at loving people that are hard to love. I was going to be in this new city and I was going to encounter people that needed love, but if I couldn’t love my own community well, how would I ever love the city well. This was pretty convicting for me at the time.
At the end of the trip we went to a burger place in Park City and it was cool to see everyone stretched across this long table. We were all exhausted and stinky, but all with big smiles just excited to be in the company of great community. I don’t think I will ever forget that first backpacking trip with everyone; I have never been with a group of people that connected so quickly, but that is what adventure does, it connects people.
SLF Class of 18-19
This past Sunday afternoon we went on a family hike up in Millcreek Canyon, the Little Water trail up to Dog Lake. It was about 2.2 miles to get to the lake from the trailhead, which is a gamble with Zoe hiking on her own, but we were ambitious and optimistic; it was going to be great. About 1/2 mile in, Zoe started complaining, and moaning, and sitting down in the trail. Pretty soon it was clear to us that we weren't going to make it to the lake as both girls were crying, asking for food and wanting to go home; and we weren't even half way there. Unsatisfied, impatient, not resting in the beauty around us...these girls were giving up on the journey because it had become too difficult for them.
So often, if we are truly honest with ourselves, we live our lives like this in our relationship with God. We might start out excited and ambitious, but soon the discomforts of the journey take our eyes off of the beauty around us and create a distrust and frustration with God...as if He doesn't understand what we want and what we are going through.
Right as Rachel and I got to the point where we realized we had to throw in the towel on the hike, we saw a cluster of gorgeous aspen trees wrapped in Autumn gold. And so we decided to go up the trail 100 more yards to hug some aspen and then we would turn around and head home. It was like a switch was flipped inside Zoe's mind, "I only have to go 100 yards, and daddy will help me get there." Once Zoe and I reached the grove, Zoe ran over to Rachel to join her in hugging this big bold aspen tree. And it was like all the joy and wonder of the woods and the mountains filled Zoe's tired body and she started running up the trail with our dog Chaco. While we shouted ahead to Zoe, telling her that she was going the wrong way, she quickly turned around and said, "We have to go to the end of the trail! I want to go to the lake! Come on, let's go!" And with that proclamation, she charged ahead, hugging trees as she continued up the trail.
Remarkably, we made it to the lake. It was gorgeous and restful. But it was the journey itself that made an impacting memory for me. Zoe's trail experience is such a great metaphor for life...even after that breakthrough moment, where she decided to charge ahead to victory, there were falls and moments of exhaustion and even disbelief if we would ever get there. But her response to the tough times had been transformed once she made this journey her own. Being told what she could and should do (by us parents) was not as empowering for her as discovering what this journey actually was for her, that it was enjoyable and challenging and fun!
Our worlds often feel shaped by what others think we should do; our goals and accomplishments and even our walk with Jesus seem to carry a weight of expectation. But when we rest in who God is, making the journey our own and allowing Him to carve it, while taking one step at a time soaking up the experience in front of us; we recognize that God is shaping our story out of a deep and bold love for us... When we experience this, we respond differently when challenges come our way. We come to understand there is a reason for the journey, and that the path will lead to somewhere beautiful. We become less concerned about the distance or the danger, and more concerned about sharing the beauty and encouraging others to follow us. We begin to see others around us as loving companions, rather than competitors or commanders. Our attitudes shift from "I have to.." to "I want to..."
I think it is in those moments, when our hearts are open and malleable, that we experience God so fully, so deeply, that we can rest ourselves into bold action. We are so content and confident in who God says we are...our identity and redemption and value coming from the King...that every step we take has bigger purpose, deeper impact, and greater meaning to the world around us. How else could a whiny, angry child turn into such an enthusiastic and brave leader? The journey becomes real. Jesus becomes real. Our story becomes less of an accomplishment or a competition and more of a life of trust, living humbly and excitedly before a mighty and loving God.
But perhaps, the most profound takeaway for me came from my own actions and heart posture on this hike. I started to recognize that my expectations, both those I communicated and those I did not, had an impact on Zoe's journey. It was once I accepted the fact that we would not reach the lake I so badly wanted to reach, and let go of my expectation for us to get the mileage I thought we should have easily been able to handle, that I was actually able to rest and be present in the midst of the beauty. I felt more free to slow down and look around at the rocky cliffs, golden trees and babbling creek. And that freedom was contagious. Zoe began to feel that freedom, that nothing was expected of her, that we were just there to walk in the woods together and be present within something bigger than ourselves.
Gosh, how true that is of us as Christians, as the Church. I think we have such a strong tendency to put expectations, goals and even judgments on other people's journeys that does damage and pushes them away. Could we be a people who share a contagious freedom; where our only agenda is to love others and allow them to walk at their pace? What would it look like to come alongside others to encourage, to share that moment with them; not to help them see us, but to see Jesus more fully. We should not be people-fixers, intent on lugging others up a mountain so that they can experience what we think they should see. We are called to love as Jesus loved.
That is what I saw in myself that day. Slow down. Be still. Stop striving, stop pushing, and look around. See where I am, see the beauty I am ignoring, see the people that are around me. Stop working so hard to make this journey different than what it is...embrace it. Allow others to experience it for themselves. And see that Jesus is with us, both in the beauty and the mess.
Director of Experience & Learning
Salt Lake Fellows
Getting a job is like sitting in a doctor’s office waiting room. Forms are filled. Time ticks. You
wait for the nurse’s call, but it seldom comes early. Communication is stifled. You find a seat.
People pass in and out. Restlessness pays you a visit. Small talk is made. Your day is slowly
consumed. Some have been waiting longer than you, others catch a lucky break and get seen
early. These are the two fates of the waiting room. Oftentimes there is little reason for which
fate you face. Most times the doctor is not busy enough to justify such a long wait.
An early entrance to the doctor’s office is like stumbling upon an empty TSA line, receiving $50s
instead of $20s from an ATM (that happened to my mom once), or – for the college students
out there – realizing that you have successfully paid off your credit card expenses for three
months in a row. It’s a big deal. You have been spared, your mental wellness is intact. It means
your visit will take you how long it should take you, which is cause for celebration. Navigate the
co-pay paperwork and you have a one-way ticket to another year of freedom. Now the world is
your oyster, your day is not squandered.
The waiting room changes people. While little Johnny hocks up a lung in the corner of the room
and a number of mothers, who arrived before you did, hypnotically stare at the linoleum tiles,
you wonder how you got here. Can’t I live without this prescription? Could I forge my own
physical? Will my family ever see me again? After hour one in the room, you have done all the
productive things you could ever do on your phone and have denied peeing twice in hope of a
soon-to-come need for a urine sample. In a bout of self-awareness, you put the phone down
and thumb through magazines you wouldn’t normally read – Entertainment Weekly, O,
Smithsonian, and Veranda. Hour two has you wondering if your forms were properly filled out.
You rise to inquire with the receptionist, who assures you that your forms are fine and the
doctor is simply busy. Busy. Busy. Busy? This is the first sign of delirium. You take your seat,
only before procuring a few new magazines, and are temporarily mesmerized with the sick child
playing with tinker-toys. Little Johnny is still coughing. You begin to read - Motor Trend,
Working Mother, Midwest Living, and Popular Science. Finally, you get up to pee. A battle has
God forbid you reach hour three and beyond, which is filled with intense self-reflection,
downloading e-books, accepting a piece of gum from the man two seats away, re-reading
magazines, taking a defeated trip to the car, trying meditation for the first time, and
brainstorming better ways to do medical care. Thankfully, most are spared from this trying
experience. For those who were not, I salute you.
When the nurse calls your name, there is always a slight delay in response. You look down to
see if your invisible name tag matches the name dictated, waiting for your tired brain to
process what has happened. They match. This is your time. You arise from your waiting room
chair, coyly eye those who acknowledge you, and thank the nurse who grants you passage door
into the celestial doctor’s office. What follows is an exciting blur. Soon, your life will be restored
and you will be on your way home.
Getting a job is like sitting in a waiting room. As you wait for someone, anyone, to call your
name, you find entertainment, boredom, silence, and fear like you never have before. I have
been in this waiting room for almost two months. Luckily, some of my friends are waiting with
me, but I can’t help feeling alone through it all. In this individual pursuit of ‘purpose,’ my pride
is damaged, entitlement is deteriorating, and motives are in-check. I have learned that patience
and persistence, willingness and obedience are important qualities to implement. I have found
that my desires for a job were rather unhealthy, thinking that my life was somehow incomplete
without it. I have realized that ‘purpose’ comes in the same package to those in and out of the
waiting room – loving people is the key to stewarding our time well.
The waiting room is not a place for apathy, diffidence, or self-pity – it is a time for action. There
is no time to writhe in playing the victim. Praising God in the waiting room means recognizing
that his keeping you from something is a necessary and productive measure to realign your
priorities. It means loving those around you, offering encouragement, listening, affirming,
validating, pursuing, and treating people like the image-bearers they are. It means thanking
God for his past provision, trusting he will provide for the future. It means asking for a willing
spirit to sustain you. Wanting a job is not sinful; a desire to work is natural. But placing a job as
the ultimate means to obtain purpose is absolute profanity. This is what I have learned in the
waiting room. This has been my last few months: intense self-reflection and extended periods
of silence. I do not wish to take back this time, but I do wish it could end soon. Regardless, I
plan to praise God in this waiting room, stewarding my time well by sincerely loving people. It’s
the only purpose I will ever have.
SLF Class of 18-19
Today was officially our last day as Salt Lake Fellows. 10 months of incredible transformation came to a close faster than I had ever anticipated. As the seven of us stood there in front of our church congregation, our director Ben asked all of those who had been involved in our program throughout this year to come up front and pray over us as we were commissioned and sent out into the next chapters of our lives.
I watched as nearly half of our congregation rose and walked forward towards us- with the kindest eyes, and warmest smiles. It hit me then: this is what His goodness looks like in the flesh. I have seen first hand how beautiful His Bride truly is. I have dwelt among a group of people who sacrificed their time and energy to loving each one of us fellows intentionally. A group of people who made a relentless effort to point us in the direction of our King during our wilderness season. People who opened their homes to break bread with us week after week and who sat with us as our hearts hurt and we had nothing to bring but tears. These same people, stood with us in victory today as we proclaimed a year of searching and growing with a faithful God. As we closed the service singing one last worship song together, I recognized the truth that my voice was lifting up: He is perfect in all of His ways. And these people here have shown me that.
Rachel and Ben, you are selfless and bold and continually teaching me about what it looks like to live your life for the Glory of The Lord. You may never know the full extent to which your faithful obedience to God’s calling on your lives have affected us seven fellows, but I am excited for the day you enter into eternity and The Lord shows you the legacy you have laid down on this earth. We are better because of your sacrifice, and we forever will cherish the 10 months He allowed us to spend with you in deep fellowship. Thank you for everything, I am blessed and forever changed from knowing you both.
Zoe Grace Loderhose, thank you for encouraging me to live into the excitement of life- and showing me how to find beauty in all of the little things, especially purple rocks. I cannot wait to see how The Lord shapes you as you grow older.
Hallie Joy, you have an amazing big sister and two strong and relentless parents who are doing a mighty work for the Kingdom. Please know that no matter what, you’ll always have 7 fellows that will forever cherish your smiles. Thank you for butt-scooting your way into our lives and truly living out the name “Joy.”
Daniela Lee, you were my mentor this year and you did life with me in the most powerful and intentional of ways. From sharing your daughters with me and inviting me into your family, to listening to my heart and rejoicing with me as we watched Jesus conquered my deepest wounds. Thank you, for who you are and who you encourage me to be. The Lord has gifted me deeply with your sweet friendship.
Chris, you have encouraged me closer to Him with each day through this wild journey. You have been my biggest fan and prayer warrior, and my greatest support this year. I’m thankful to have shared this year with you, even from thousands of miles away. Colossians 1:17 has engraved itself into my heart through our story this year.
And to my fellows, you have shown me His perfection in a deep and symbolic way. The number seven will forever be sacred and special to me. From the beginning of time God has set it apart to show completion and perfection, and He did that once again through this year with you all. Thank you for challenging me, encouraging me, praying over me, and watching as I stumble through His plans for my life. You have shown me His goodness, and the Spirit of diversity that He so lovingly celebrates. Every part of this year has been orchestrated by a Father who loves us. When we doubted our placement, our purpose and everything in between He showed us so much deeper into His intentions and His goodness. Thank you for trusting Him this year, and encouraging me to as well. He is truly truly perfect in all of His ways. I love you all, and I am better because of you."