You cannot put the shackles on yourself.

When you are not present how could something significant occur?


I have a wonderful friend & her name is Anna Rose. Whenever I am with her and there are a few minutes of silence, she will always, without fail, ask what I’m thinking about. I love this. Last night, we were sitting in rocking chairs, Elizabeth, Anna Rose, and I, and after about 5 or 10 minutes she asked us what we were thinking about. Of course, we both answered something along the lines of “I don’t know” or “Too many things.” When we asked her what she was thinking about though, she blew my mind. She began leading us through her stream of consciousness, which included the make up of cells, finding people beautiful, and touch, among a broad spectrum of things. All of these cells fit together really nicely. Our bodies are just shells. Just a mechanism. It’s weird to think about how much time we spend on our shells though. The configuration of their cells is so good-looking. Touch is so impactful. 

If there is one person from whom I am learning to be present, Anna Rose is definitely that person. The eloquence of the way she speaks and the way she so carefully handcrafts her sentences makes me take a step back and realize where God has me. It’s these kind of people you should want to be around the most. The people who make your existence much more bearable and even joyful.

A few mornings ago, on Wednesday, I felt like a true college student. Our meal plan didn’t start for another day, and I was a little too broke to go on another grocery run, so peanut butter & apple sauce it was (not mixed together, of course). Surprisingly fulfilling, if you ask me. Oh, and there was coffee. Copious amounts of coffee.

Wednesday was *dun dun dun* freshman move-in day. I don’t say this to be a bad thing, but I have gotten comfortable in my little Gate bubble, so I know my world’s about to be a little overwhelming. I am very excited though to meet the people I will be spending the next four years with. However, what started as a morning where I wasn’t going into work until 9 and I was going to have my quiet time from my dorm room, ended with parents’ voices booming up and down the hall at 7:30 this morning. No, thank you. I was still able to focus though, which I was really surprised about, but you know, God’s an awesome guy and works in mysterious ways (I get very easily distracted).

Tuesday night at Bible study (I feel like this one was the best one I’ve been to), we read through Romans 8 and Ephesians 1:3-8. Word of advice: If you want to rock somebody’s world, read them these chapters. I know we’re always told how much God loves us, but how often do we let it sink in? Last night though, I felt immersed in God’s love for me. When words like “lavished” and “abundantly free” came into the equation, suddenly something settled in my heart. One of the ladies there, Hannah, said something that really just hit home for me, and I’m not sure if she even realized how powerful her words were. We had just read through Ephesians 1:3-8, which says:

 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight.”

After we all kind of took a moment to let that sink in, people started giving their initial feedback to the passage, and Hannah said,

No matter what you do, you cannot put the shackles on yourself.” 

God has broken every chain, and no matter what I do, I cannot put them back on. No matter how much I pity myself or try to feel such shame and guilt in those moments, He will not allow it to consume me. Wow. How amazing is He? And the fact that He formed us before the foundation of the earth; what pleasure He took in planning this. And in addition to all that He has already done for us, for the cherry on top of everything, He has LAVISHED upon us His grace and love and mercy. Lavished. This word literally means to give or expend in great amounts or without limit. He extends to us a love that is limitless. There is nothing we did to deserve it, but there is nothing we can do that will take it away. We cannot place the shackles on ourselves.

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As for the moments I have been present this week, they have been endless. Yes, I still meticulously create my to-do lists, but I have found myself actually sinking inside of myself and living in so many moments recently. My hand out the car window catching the sticky August air on my fingertips. Savory moments with a blackberry white mocha. Belting, and I mean belting, country music songs at the top of my lungs during joy rides in a Trailblazer. Afternoons in the chapel, after long, terrible days, just playing the piano & still singing at the top of my lungs. Sipping cups of coffee in glass mugs. Long, evening runs that make you happy you’re alive. Christmas lights in a dorm room. Text messages that bring back memories of letters you wrote as a freshman in high school. Reading old letters in general. Songs being stuck in my head for days. Messy buns turning out perfectly. Participating in the ALS ice bucket challenge. Conversation that makes you happy for even existing & conversation where you can truly feel the presence of God with each word said. Finding God in the chaos and confusion of a new season life, but knowing He will be there to help you navigate each step you’re taking.

I love getting to know new people, especially those whom I haven’t grown up with and know their tics and habits or the stories that formed them. I want to sit over coffee, and I want you to ask me every question you’ve ever had, even though you know I won’t have the answers. I want you to explain every doubt you’ve ever had. I want to hear the stories that made you the way you are. I want to know about the inside jokes, the late night talks, and the unanswered philosophical questions. I want to know it all. I want to know about your relationship with God. I want to know how you like your coffee. I want to know the big and the small. I want to see where we relate because I’m sure we do, more than you would’ve thought. I want to know what has scarred you. What makes you jump in fear or grow giddy in excitement? What is one thing that someone said that will never leave your mind? What is that one comment that constantly diminishes you? Who is one person whose face will never leave your mind? What is the greatest feeling in the world? What is the best book quote you have ever read? Where do you find the most joy? I want you to know what to say when somebody says to you, “Tell me about yourself,” because that will forever be one of life’s hardest questions. But you should know that you are free. Your shackles are gone, they cannot be replaced, and you are free.


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