Tuesday, August 14, 2012

it was more than a week full of hormonal teenagers, bug bites, and waterfalls.

arianna, ashley (my sister), ale grace, adeline, brittany, me, and augusta
- outside of the cabins, off to hit up the Ocoee River for white water rafting

when i volunteered to be a leader at our church's teen summer camp (known as The Flow), i somewhat had an idea of what to expect. i had been to The Flow before - nearly 12 years ago when i was a junior in highschool - and knew that the week would be filled with crazy outdoor adventures (white-water rafting, hiking steep mountains, sitting under waterfalls, and being blobbed into a lake, etc.) to morning and evening sessions of Bible-teaching, quiet moments of just you and God, late night conversations, inside jokes, long hours on the road, mind-blowing worship music, and the forming of new friendships and deepening of old ones.

to be honest, a week before this trip, i wasn't sure if i wanted to go. but something was pressing me to go - and i knew that a week at home filled with work, catching up on Vampire Diaries, and keeping up with the Olympics was just not going to cut it. so i volunteered my next week to be surrounded by not only crazy, hormonal teenagers but also by the great outdoors who unfortunately is not always cordial with the girly-girl side of me.

was i ever wrong. it was way more than that.

but first, let's rewind to this past summer - even to the last year, where i have wrestled in my season of waiting. i have hinted to it - and i think some of you have picked up of it, asking questions regarding my wedding date or when i would make the move towards the next step of my life. and feeling the need to be completely honest,  it has been one of the most difficult seasons of my life - where i have never felt so not in control of my life. that dude, doesn't work very well for someone who is a planner *two thumbs points back to self.*

i hit some darker moments, especially this summer, where i was continually crying out to God, are You still there? don't You not care about me at all? i had many late nights where i scribbled out my prayers in my journal and  many heart-wrenching conversations with Ryan as we both sought the face of God, asking why He had not yet opened the door for us to move forward with our lives.

and i left for The Flow in this state - questioning God and His sovereignty, His goodness, very much in need for Him to make His presence known to me again. and God did not waste any time.

the bluff overlooking the mountains and foothills of Fort Bluff, TN - photo credit to Brittany Sutton

on the first night, Drew, our youth pastor taught from the passage Mark 4:35-41 where Jesus took his disciples out onto the sea of Galilee and a crazy storm completely engulfed their boat, freaking the heck out of the disciples. and where was Jesus? He was asleep in the boat - and the disciples started screaming to Jesus, Do you not care that we are perishing?! and as soon as they said that, Jesus was up and calmed the wind and the waves, which of course caused the disciples to shut their sarcastic, whining mouths up.

having grown up in a Christian home and the church, i have heard this story numerous times - but with all that i had been going through, there was new light shed for me that evening. i was feeling like those freaked out disciples, crying out to Jesus, Don't you care at all?! yet Jesus wasn't asleep because he didn't care. He was asleep because he was in total peace and was in total control of the storm. He was the one to calm the thunder, the lightning and the waves. He knew and was trying to teach the disciples this.

Drew noted three important notes from the passage that you are in the storm 1) by His appointment (He knew this storm was going to happen - he is NOT surprised) , 2) with His presence (we are NOT alone!) and 3) For His purposes (to possibly to teach YOU something he could not teach you in any other way). And the what really stood out to me was this quote: In storms, we want God to do a removing job. He wants to do an improving job. 

so many times, i've just begged God to remove from this storm of waiting. there have been days where i felt like i can't take it anymore and i've asked for Him to just end it, no matter what but what i was reminded that first night session was that He sees and knows the bigger picture. He knows what is the outcome of the storm - that i will be stronger and more of the person that He desires for me to be.

at the bottom of the waterfall after a super steep hike down the mountain
- man, my knees felt that one but it was SO worth it! - photo credit, Brittany Sutton
i also know that i have allowed myself to find comfort and security in this storm from other things instead of God - whether it be entertainment or work, and not that those things are bad but they can be wrong if that is where i find my ultimate comfort from life's hardships. and to have the luxury of being away from work and every day distractions with a week of reading my Bible, singing worship music morning and night, and spending time with other believers has recharged me in a way that i have not been in a long time.

the rest of days at The Flow continued to be a confirmation that i was in the place that i needed to be in this season of my life. i was blessed and challenged by the high-schoolers and the other leaders and more of the teaching sessions. i was refreshed by beauty of the creation that surrounded me. God reminded me again and again of His faithfulness and His love for me. i just had been so busy that i had forgotten and had stopped listening - yet this week forced me to turn my ears and heart back to Him. and i know these emotions will fade and the days will become difficult again, but that doesn't change who God is or what His Word the Bible promises because He will never change. i will change, but He will never change

i write these thoughts out for myself so that i not forget, but also for those of you who might need some extra encouragement. i believe that when a person hears good news, it is his/her responsibility to pass it on 'cause you never know who might need it. God reminded me that He never left me. He has always been there but i allowed my emotions and believing in the lies that He left me - when in reality, He has always been there (Hebrews 13:5 - never will i leave you, nor forsake you) even in the storm, the very storm He is in total control of. 

much love.
{happy wednesday, friend.}

p.s. are you Krysten of Why Girls Are Weird (#27) 'cause you just won the B.A.I.T. footwear giveaway?! and if you are missreneer (#7) you just won the Snowdrift Design giveaway! ladies, please shoot me an email at muchloveilly at gmail dot com to claim your prizes! congrats to you both and thank YOU to B.A.I.T. and Snowdrift for two fantabulous giveaways! 


  1. Thanks for sharing your heart. God had a purpose in spending a week in Tennessee. Plus catching up with an old friend probably wasn't that bad either ;)

  2. love you and your heart. thank your for these words... it's such a good reminder that He is good and He is there... even when we don't hear His voice that clearly.

  3. God is so good. we get caught up in thinking it is all about us and what we need, when it all just points back to him and his infinite glory! praying for you as you continue to wrestle and grow. it's all part of the plan :)


  4. Illy, you are awesome for sharing this. God always have a time and reason for everything He allows us to go through. Thank you for sharing your trip and wonderful testimony!

    Love you, sweet friend!

  5. beautiful beautiful post.

    love this. love you. love the reminder.

    Thank you :)

  6. Ilene... what a positively amazing post. Your words are really touching. Thank you for sharing this with us.

  7. you write soo beautiful, my friend!!

  8. Thanks so much for being so honest and raw. thank you so much for sharing your experience and for the encouragement.

  9. Thanks for this. I needed it tonight. May God continue to bless you, friend. :-)

  10. i have had the same emotional stuff going on and had believed the lie that God left me. stuck so completely with darkness...really, i feel like that was all my fault because i was the one who stepped away from the protection of, well, HIM. i was the one who fed the fleshly lion more than i fed the spiritual, Godly lion. input output. so it makes wonderful sense that being in the word and in his creation really "knocked ya hard (in a good way)". i'm so glad you got that time. really, really glad. thank you for following your responsibility to share with us. you are wise!

  11. You called the Disciples sarcastic. Heh. I like that.

    And I loved everything else you said.

  12. sweet sweet girl. thanks for sharing your precious heart. xo

  13. we just read this story to our 3 year old the other night and it still didn't click with me until reading it here again. so funny how God can work through other people. thank you for sharing your story and helping to put things into perspective for me.

  14. wow...thank you so much for sharing. That was definitely something I needed to hear. Glad you had such an amazing, encouraging time!

  15. I really enjoyed this post. Thank you so much :)

  16. Esli, this was so wonderful for you to share!!! Sounds like a beautiful week, and a refreshing reminder - sometimes we all need one!! :] XO!

  17. Ate illy, you encouraged me by this post. Truly God never sleeps, He always love and care for us. :)

    and love those outdoors adventures you've experienced.

  18. Yes! Thank you so much for sharing your experience. I am in the midst of a storm myself, and sometimes it's hard to remember that God is in control! I definitely needed to hear your encouraging words today. Thank you!

  19. thanks for sharing this friend.... love that "improving not removing" part. i will be driving to beechpointe tomorrow night (!!) i may try and give you a call, no worrries if you're not around but how can i not call you on my way up there?!? beechpointe bff's! :)

  20. Love this post, friend! God is good, always.

  21. This post was refreshing!Loved it!


    Psalm 104: 27 says:
    "All creatures look to you to give them their food at the proper time."

    M sure the Lord will bring everything together and give you what you need exactly when you need it!



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