This is primarily a post about what I learned from my trip to Arkansas, not really about the trip itself, but that should become more apparent. To give a little background, I took this trip with about 60 people from my church (high schoolers, a few junior high schoolers, and parents of said kids). We went down to Vilonia, Arkansas for a week over Bluffton's Spring Break to help with tornado relief for victims of last spring's tornado. My church's organization (World Relief) worked closely with Habitat for Humanity to build homes for those whose homes had been destroyed. My team went on the last week of the project (World Relief is pulling out this week), and there were still lots of little things to finish up – cleaning, porches to build, some major stuff – and there have been teams down there for the past 11 weeks. Many of the homes we worked on had been built from the ground up. I was in a group of girls that worked on cleaning most of the week – a couple days we did several odd jobs – and it was a blast. It was awesome getting to know everyone better and make new friendships. I was reluctant to go on the trip because of my hectic schedule right now and other stuff, but I am beyond thrilled I went and I did not want to leave. I love working like I did that week, and I easily could have stayed a couple more weeks. But now that we have some background, I want to get into the other stuff, because this could get long. This is all stuff I'm pulling from my phone, where I wrote like crazy both while down there and on the way back.
God is so big. There are little pieces of Him everywhere. In so many hearts, in so many places. And it's beautiful how big He is, how lavish He is with His love. He pours it out but it never runs out. It never needs replenished or redistributed. It comes and comes without end, from an eternal supply that exists like God Himself because God Himself is love. And God won't ever end. And I love it that God's love isn't just there in the nice, pretty places, but it's in the ugly, messy parts, too, because it is there where it is needed most. And if there is anything that has struck me more recently, it is that idea – the idea of God's love in the mess that is our world, that is our lives. And the fact that that love will ultimately save us. That love will ultimately make all the ugly beautiful, make all the darkness light, turn all the pain into healing. Because God, Who is love, loved our pain and our mess, and our darkness first. He experienced it all. He weeps with us in our pain. And when we don't understand why kids don't have dads, why their lives can be so messed up by the people who are supposed to cherish them, why lives are ruined and homes are destroyed and chidren are killed by the wind, we can, we have to hold on to the fact that God is still God and God is still good. And we don't understand why all the stuff happens, how good could ever come out of such awful situations, but one day, whether in this life or not, we will know why, and we will see the beauty that comes out of the messy, the way God has been redeeming all of out mistakes from the very beginning, how He's making it all into a masterpiece – taking all the ugly and feeling-forsaken bits and all the beautiful bits and creating beauty. And that's beautiful. That is what I can't wait to see. That's what's struck me this week and the last couple months – the idea of beauty in the broken and God's love making it all right in the end. Because God is good all the time. When we don't believe it, don't see how anything couple work out for good. He is there and He is good. Because that is Who He is. All the time.
Sitting here on the bus, on the way back to real life, work, and cooler temperatures, my heart is full. God filled me up this week, filled me up to overflowing. I was once again overcome by His beauty, His love, His sovereignty. It was awesome. I met so many great people, got to know so many people a little better, saw a little bit of how God works through pain to accomplish good. I saw so many people who had to become broken before they could be healed. I got to see so many exemplary people who inspired me by their patience, their love, their humility, their willingness to help others, and their care for those around them. Because God shows up and He shows out when His people are willing to follow Him and move for Him. And God's presence is just as strong among people who say y'all, and have stuff in their yards, who have lost everything, who have lived in a shack for decades, and whose act of worship is as outward as it is inward as it is among good people who have jobs and houses and who go to church and use proper grammar. Because those people who have nothing left – who realized that when they had nothing but God, He was more than enough – they have more to give than those who have everything. And they trust God and love people because they have to trust God and they love so hard because they know in the most tangible ways how much God loves them. Among the simple people, God can show His complexity and mystery, among the people who have nothing, God can show that He is everything. Among the people who have suffered loss, God can show His provision. Among the messy lives, God reveals His restoring hand. For those whose homes were shattered into heaps of despair, God shows that He can be the only shelter they will ever need.
Father, this week I have seen a lot of pain, a lot of destruction, a lot of hurt. And it's ugly and it breaks my heart the loss that so many people have suffered. But Father, there are little strands of beauty woven through the hurt. Little specks of Your light showing through the darkness. Bits of You. Bits of Your love. And there's beauty in the pain. Light in the darkness. Goodness in the ugly. Because You, Father, are always good. When the world around falls to pieces. When the wind blows too hard and blows down lives, when there is death and abuse and loss, You. Are. Still. Good. You are still there. And You're weaving silently. Weaving all the darkness and the pain and the tears with all the light. And we don't see it now, perhaps we won't see it until we get to heaven, but more than anything else I can't wait to see the beauty You bring out of the pain and darkness in the world. Because that is Who You are. You are good. All the time. No matter what happens or how much pain fills the earth. Because You are God. And You are a God of redemption. You are the God who triumphs over evil and pain and suffering. You are the God Who will redeem all of that for Your glory and our good. When we don't see it, when we question Your name and doubt that You could be a loving God. You are the God of redemption Who uses a tornado for His glory. When we can't see how, You are still God. You are still there.And that isn't even all of it! Whenever I experience something that really touches me, I cannot help but write about it – it just comes flowing out and I can't really turn it off, and I have a feeling I'm not done yet. *Sigh* (#problemsofawriter) Anyway, good for you if you read all of that or at least some, and now I'm going to wrap this up, because it is long enough. Thanks for reading! xo, Ella