it's been nearly 11 months since i left home. just a bit less than that since i've written anything on this blog. i had big plans of sharing this exciting life and season but how does one come to express a life, a place, a time so extraordinary?
hillsong college, hillsong church - there is nothing else like it. i am convinced i could see the great wonders of the world and still not marvel at them as i do at the favour, blessing, creativity, and vision of this church. and it's not because the "franchise" of hillsong is so amazing, but because what God is doing in this place across the earth is breathtaking. everyday there is something new, something more beautiful and wonderful than before. fresh vision, dreams, encounters. people recognizing Jesus as their Savior: like this past weekend, sitting in the tv room during the altar call and within one narrow camera shot, seeing three hands raised responding to the call of salvation. new endeavours and innovations to reach the lost and to bless people outside the four walls of a church, bringing the capital-c Church to them: washing their dogs, cleaning their yards, bringing new families food, blessing the community with gifts at Christmas time. placing value, integrity, honour on others. being the hands and feet of Jesus. serving in the House with joy, respect, and God-give authority and capacity.
i have not yet uncovered the limits to the breadth of this place. there is not an area of humanity that they are not tapping into, reaching into, for the cause and desire of pointing people to Jesus Christ. the rest of the world really has no idea!
today we wrapped up our year with a succession of chapel services for our college group. a day filled with amazing music beautifully led by our peers; messages from two passionately anointed speakers in this house; lots of crowd-surfing, storming the stage, people on other people's shoulders, including those holding guitars, running track around the auditorium to worship music, anarchy in the tv room, probably stressed out events people (i kid i kid!), laughter, and freedom. we danced and danced as we do every day. we prayed and we stepped into the presence of God. as we are privileged and blessed to do nearly every day. and there have been days, weeks, when it's been hard, or has become 'too normal', or 'not exciting enough', but i get it now, just a bit better. i moved past, from recognizing the dream and experiencing it surreally, to being all too familiar and nearly burnt out, to now being in complete love and adoration of Jesus Christ's Church on the earth, and especially of Hillsong.
freedom. freedom is the key word of this year, especially these last few months. that is my sole pursuit in this world: to see people living in the freedom of Christ. my body aches three days gone by after dancing so hard in an attempt to make young women spending their days in a juvenile centre smile and lose themselves in liberation at our shine ball. a small act to lift them up and show them they are valued and worth it and matter and are created with purpose; that their decisions, whatever landed them in the centre, does not define them, but that there is freedom in this life through Jesus Christ. yes, there are consequences for our actions, but Jesus saw past that before we were even a thought and cleared our record if only we'd receive it. only accept that He has given us a new identity, and in that identity we can have a full, abundant life, with more goodness and grace than we know what to do with; more joy, love, peace than the world could ever fathom, let alone offer! and i'm just ranting now because i'm overflowing. i spend less time really reflecting - life moves so fast these days - than i ever did at home. walking back from my errands i lost it. how can i even give a glance into what this year has meant in my life? how can i even paint a picture?
the people. students, trainers, staff, and pastors alike. they push me, challenge me, support me, pull things out of me i never knew existed; they celebrate me, encourage me, inspire me, empower me, and motivate me. yesterday i sat in a cafe and shook with excitement and urgency at the realization of what a blessing it is to be in this place right now with these people. i see myself years down the road creeping them on (the much cooler version of) facebook and seeing things we once talked about over coffee and croissants coming to fruition. and i dream of those conversations where we laugh, or cry, or both, and say, "can you believe this is happening? those things God spoke to us, planted in our spirits, so long ago and now we are here?" and just being in awe and wonder of how we have been knit together in His Kingdom plan.
the God of the exceedingly abundantly above all you can hope or imagine.
the opportunities. to sit under leadership that values and empowers women; that has tapped into an intentional culture of servanthood and leadership so counter what the rest of world accepts or expects. to be a contributing part of some of the largest conferences in the world, equipping people and local churches to lead and to be well-led. to attend and participate in weekend services where thousands are spiritually fed or where they encounter the Person of Jesus for the very first time; where they grow and connect and press in and change and find their place. to stand on the main camera at the back and follow the pastors and leaders through my lens, remembering the time i first walked into a service and said i wanted to do that, and less than 4 months later, that's where i stood. to be present as hillsong launched their young & free music to the world, to see - not 1, not 2 - but 3 hillsong music albums reach the top of the [secular] charts all over the world, being reminded of what an impact the music had on me and drew me here in the first place. to attend and stand in awe as thousands of the younger generation acknowledge their Savior through youth camps and events, including those i have the privilege of leading. to be equipped to take the message of value, worth, strength, purpose into the hearts and lives of young women, to see their perceptions change of themselves and of others, to see their body language change, their eyes brighten, the stains of hurtful lies be washed off their skin because of the concealed message of Jesus in the curriculum of Shine (sneaky sneaky! we may not mention Jesus in Shine but we use His words to impart the truth into women's lives!). and now in january, to take that message to beautiful women being restored and rebuilt in kenya.
someone once relayed that a year at college here is supposed to simulate 5-10 years in ministry. they weren't making that up. and this is only what i can think of off the top of my head.
one of the most definitive things of this year has been my role as youth leader at an anglican church outside the city. i am honoured to have the responsibility of leading and pouring into the lives of - as of right now - 4 beautiful young women. it is my greatest joy to watch them grow in confidence, in their faith and relationship with God, and in their leadership. i knew from the beginning it was a God ordained thing, but it took me a long time to really get it. but now that i do, i am more excited for this next season than about anything else. it is a strange privilege to go outside the walls of safety and - ...well hillsong is different from nearly everything on earth - to a place smaller where i can pour out what i am all week being filled up with. and from that, seeing the whole church community growing and changing in morale. it is my highest pleasure.
at the beginning of the year, our amazing, amazing principal catrina [who i want to be just like when i grow up!] described college as heart surgery. and as i went through the procedure of having my heart cut open figuratively, i found out i had to have my ear cut open... literally. in august, through an innocent referral to an amazing ear doctor, we discovered that i had a recurrent disease from my childhood. and having been told i was cured of it 16 years ago, it had grown unnoticed and essentially worked to destroy the entire internal ear. the week before my surgery i sat in the dark of the kids room at church between classes as my parents skyped me and called the doctor for details. he refused to discuss hearing as he could guarantee nothing and mom sobbed and apologized over and over, and i sobbed thinking that within a week i would be deaf. the music i loved no longer audible. i pictured learning braille. i saw people with hearing aids everywhere i went. i cried thinking of being a mother unable to hear my children laughing or calling for help. and people laid their hands on me as tears fell harder than ever in the middle of the classroom. and then i was just scared and so so heart-broken. and i thought i trusted God, but i was so afraid He was going to disappoint my dreams of miracles: doctors walking out of the OR and announcing to my dear friend and hospital companion riley, "the disease reversed itself!" and when everything was normal and that didn't happen, and i woke up the day after surgery and walked out of the hospital, i was mad that nothing supernatural happened. i was frustrated that other people got miracles and i didn't. but then, weeks later, when i was back to school and didn't just hear the drums when the music played but the whole song, and when i didn't have to turn my head to the good ear to hear people speak to me, my beautiful Healer whispered, "This could have taken you out. You're stronger than you think. Can you hear Me now?" and no longer did my disappointment, my frustration matter, but i saw the miracle. a slow journey of seemingly small things, but a journey of restoration and things better than imagined. and recognizing that He won't let me down, and my faith is weak. it's not about what He 'does' for me, because what He's done already is better than anything else He could now offer or give me. my hearing is good. my scar is itchy and my reconstructed ear canal is large and my shaved hair is a funny length but i'm thankful for the reminder of His goodness, and i will always stay here: remembering. His promise is enough. i don't need anything more. i couldn't see all the great things He did - insurance covering the entire procedure [a $20,000 ordeal!!!!!] and there's a bigger background story/miracle there, giving me the best doctor in australia, a specialist in my very disease, by some fluke and law of proximity, the kind people in the office, my amazing roommates and peers giving greater care than i could have ever thought of receiving, the peace my parents felt back home - but now i see that this was the greatest lesson of them all: the one not learned in the classroom, but experienced in the heart and body. and my testimony is stronger and my place here means more because they held me up when i really just wanted my mom and they made that not as hard as it could have been.
on this other side of things i am so much stronger. and more resolved. and more passionate than ever! i finally chose to take ownership of things, of time, of me, and now i am more free and at home than i've ever been. i've always been very adaptable, mind over matter, shifting perspective when realized and necessary, so i go into this next year the best version of me yet. disease free in more ways than one. i am in love with people. in love with Christ's Church, His Bride. His joy, His pleasure. in love with the honour of leading young people in their pursuit of God. i am more in love with Jesus, in His Divinity and Humanity; with the Lord in His magnitude, character, and creativity; with the Holy Spirit as an ever-present, adventurous Person.
i won't guarantee i'll write anything for another year (ha!) - although a lot of me would like to - so i'll end with this:
just keep seeking Him. leading yourself so you can lead others. remembering it's not your circumstances that determine who God is, but who you believe God to be which determines how you see your circumstances. tell people about Jesus; don't withhold all they need to experience full Life from them. and speak Life into people: truth, honour, value; words of Christ Himself; profound, life-changing purpose and worth. God has entrusted us with the mission of being on the ground running as He reconciles all of humanity back to Himself. don't beat yourself up for your sin, don't get stuck in a place of shame; move forward, step out, take His extended hand, keep your lifeline to God taut. He will never let you go, even when you're frustrated, negligent, disobedient. stay learning and growing, in community, in fellowship, in private. you're beautiful, wonderful, and created for purpose. when you don't believe it, speak it over yourself. let the ruins come to life. find your identity in Christ and Christ alone. be nice to everyone: you may be the only Jesus they ever see.