It's important to look back from time to time to remember how far we've come – it's an enduring testament to God's faithfulness, to see where He's taken us. One of the biggest ways I've seen Him move in my life has actually been right here on this blog. There are many of you who have followed along from the beginning, and have seen the fruit of His hands – and it would be a disservice to me to hide the full weight of what He's done from you. I've feared writing this post for awhile, because it's been hard for me to put into words. This may or may not be legible. Forgive me.
When I started the blog, I was looking to turn my passion into my income. I had been an avid blog reader for years, and felt that my immense knowledge of random tips and tricks would be perfectly suited to a blog. Growing up, I had written numerous short stories, chapter books, and diaries. I had just obtained my college degree in graphic design. It felt as if all of the pieces had come together. On our honeymoon, Chris encouraged me to just try it, and that was the last push I needed. I launched TPA in the fall of 2013 and posted Monday through Friday on travel, style, food, and anything else that struck my fancy.
Over the next few months, my readership grew but my spirits fell. I found that blogging wasn't nearly as fulfilling as I had imagined. Chris and I got plugged in at our current church, and God began to do a serious work in my heart. I realized blogging was not a topic I couldn't bring to the Lord, and for the first time, asked Him about it.
I remember that December praying He would stop me if this wasn't His will. I told Him I was fine putting this dream in a drawer if it wasn't what He wanted for me. I simultaneously couldn't believe I was saying those words (after all of that dreaming I had done!), and also that I felt so at ease saying those words. I was ready to walk away. I prayed about it on my way to work, during breaks in my day, before bed at night. For several weeks, I kept offering these words up to the Lord – asking Him which way to go. This was all a completely new experience for me. I couldn't remember the last time I prayed, let alone praying continuously over something in such a focused way.
I was working one night on a blog post and felt new words begin to sink into my heart – "let Me take it." It hadn't dawned on me before. Letting Him run something as worldly and mundane as a blog? "You're saying you're ready to give it up. Do that... but don't walk away from it. Just give it to me. Step in and surrender it."
My world was turned upside down. Since then, He's turned my world on it's head several times, and much of that has happened here. I began to write more openly about my faith, and through that, found more and more community. I had people reach out to me via social media to thank me for sharing my words. I had strangers tell me they found healing here. I had a distant acquaintance stop me in the grocery store to tell me TPA was the only blog she read and that it gave her life. Every time I heard that, all I could honestly answer was that it wasn't me – it was all God's doing. I couldn't fathom that people came here and found what the encouragement they needed.
He sparked in me a deep love and affection for women – another miracle I couldn't fathom, after having spent most of my life afraid of their friendship. I still find myself retreating back to that, and it's a constant battle for me to learn how to be vulnerable. Loving others hasn't been the hard part, but letting down my walls enough to let others in has been a true struggle. Blogging? Talk about "no walls." God has lead me to write more and more of what He's taught me here, and that means being honest, and it means letting the walls come crumbling down. I can't believe how freeing exposing more of my weakness through writing has been. I pray He continues to work in these areas in my heart – pulling up weeds and tilling the soil. Sometimes it hurts, and it's certainly not always pretty, but it's good, hard work that produces incredible fruit (or flowers, if you like those better ;) ). One of the beautiful gardens born out of that was The Ruby Project. I (well, let's be real, God) invited more women in to be vulnerable – to wave a banner of how their weakness has been where God has triumphed. It was a beautiful thing, and the joy of that has been sewn deep into my heart. To you women who were part of that – I will never be able to thank you enough. God did a good work in you.
Then, I went through a period last summer where I was stopped in my tracks in a very unexpected way. A close friend asked good questions about why I blogged and where my biblical truth came from... and if it really came from the Bible. I questioned everything. I felt exposed, and as if I was teaching lies without realizing it. I felt as if I had lost my identity. I felt as if I had let everyone down. I let myself become paralyzed by fear and lies. I stopped writing.
Friends, it was in this place of fear and darkness that led to one of the most beautiful moments of my life. Chris and I took a trip to California – his home state, and a place I'd never been. The ocean has always been a powerful teacher in my life (partially why we were married so close to it). I stood at the ocean's edge and let Him speak to me. Chris and I had long, lengthy discussions about where God was taking us – physically, mentally, and emotionally. We fasted for the first time. We came home still afraid of what might be next for us – but knowing we could have hope in our good Father. We rested in that knowledge.
Born out of that season was a desire to attend seminary. Y'all, I felt like a crazy person. What's a graphic designer doing in seminary school? What were my plans for ministry after graduation? Was this degree going to turn into a source of income for us? I didn't have answers for any of that. Of course I wanted to imagine speaking to huge rooms full of women; I wanted to dream of writing book after book on His goodness. But I felt as if that was narrow-minded of me. I had seen that play out before for the women I admired, but that wasn't the only option. I began to find great comfort in the unknown, in the turned-up palms that said, "Lord, whatever your will is. I just want to know You more." It still feels completely abnormal to tell people that I'm pursuing a degree that may not necessarily lead to a career path. But I love how God takes what feels terrifying to me and makes it all about His glory.
Writing to you here has pushed me further and further out of my comfort zone. I look back and re-read blog posts and it brings me to my knees. It's hard for me to express the gravity of all that He's done in me through this blog. On the "about" page, I've written that I wish every blog post was instead us sitting down one-on-one, with steaming cups of coffee between us, chatting. I wish I could look you in the eyes and tell you to your face that He is good. I wish I could hear each of your stories.
Because really, that's just it. I type all of this out to say that there's one story at work here, and it is big and beautiful. It's woven into a giant tapestry, and each raggedy thread is suddenly woven in as part of something bigger and more glorious than we can even realize at this present moment. Your story matters. God takes these threads of our lives (blogging? what would He want with that?) (me? I'm terrified of friendship. why would He want me to love on other women??) and He is good to claim them for Himself and tie them into what He's doing – redeeming and reconciling for His glory alone. There is great joy in that friends. I'll leave you with one of my favorites:
Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
- Hebrews 12:1-3 -