Seeking His Presence Now: Brooke
I met Brooke during the week of sorority recruitment. She kind of stalked me. In the funniest way. You have to understand that there were approximately, well, 10 people from the great state of Texas at Elon University in 2005 and even less from Houston. She was one of them. So was I. She was two years ahead of me, so when she saw my name and hometown on the list of new people, she sought me out. And we had an excited (and surprisingly loud), "I don't know you and you don't know me, but we're both from Houston and isn't that so cool?!" meeting in front of about 300 other girls. It was wonderful. She is wonderful. To this homesick freshman, she became a face of home. It wasn't until years later, after I'd graduated and she'd just moved back to Houston, that we got to be really good friends. We have weathered the post-grad seasons together, and I am so grateful for her friendship. She is fun and hilariously funny and has big ideas. She is creative and crazy-talented as an artist. She celebrates and honors people well, and she is a hostess like none you have ever met. She loves Jesus, and she faithfully lives and also enjoys the life He puts in front of her.
She is a treasure of a friend.
Brooke, thank you for stalking me as a freshman and for being my friend for all of these years.
And thank you for sharing this with us here. Brooke's words are below.
Four simple letters form a word that all of us have heard and read for so many years. A word that many of us read over and over again and our eyes scan quickly past. A word that seems to go best with other words like peace and love. What an eloquent pairing knowing that without those four letters, without that one simple word to anchor them, peace and love float away.
For me, those four letters form a word that means more to me than any other word. Have you ever been in a place where you’ve lost HOPE? I mean, really lost it. I certainly have. You think that the path you’re on has no end. That the aching you feel has no cure. That there is absolutely no one that can throw you a life vest to rescue you from the pain. Without HOPE, there is no peace, there is no love.
I grew up with HOPE my whole life. There was never a time when I questioned what that word meant to me until one day, I lost it. There were, of course, a series of events that led to me losing it, but I’ll spare you the details. Suffice it to say, I spent weeks, even months, walking around thinking that if I put a smile on my face, no one would know that this girl that grew up in church, was active in Bible studies, who followed the rules and never rebelled was actually walking down a path of disbelief. I’m sure many of us have felt the weight of hypocrisy when we face these moments. How could you preach the good news for so long and yet be questioning its role in your life? I felt shame, and I was determined to keep everyone else from seeing that weakness in me.
Until one day, one special day, I looked around and thought: something is missing. I never stopped going to church, but I did stop listening. On that special day, a day that still fills my heart with fear and excitement, I listened. And the message I heard was: HOPE. That day, those four simple letters became more than a word to me, they were a real emotion. A feeling of optimistic expectation. A reassurance that in Him, I am at home. As I embraced the HOPE that lies only in Him, I found a place in His presence where I could finally experience the peace and love that I had been missing. Yet, I was fearful of what I had done when I wasn’t actively seeking Him.
We have all been at the point of making “life-altering” decisions. Have you ever made those decisions without God? Without talking to Him, praying to Him, and most importantly, listening to Him? I sure have--more than I care to admit.
After being in that position one too many times, I promised myself I would never lose sight of the HOPE and expectation that comes from knowing His hand was in that moment. I would do everything I could to remember that deep wound of despair I had experienced so that I knew how blessed I was to be living in Him.
When I was living in DC, I felt unfulfilled. Life seemed empty and shallow. I was surrounded by friends and family, but I knew I wasn’t living a God-centered life. Unlike so many other times when I leaped without praying, I decided to take time to pray about the decision to move back to Texas. I kept finding myself running to the steps behind the Lincoln Memorial overlooking the Potomac River. Like many other times in my life, God was using his ‘calm waters’ to draw me closer to him. As I stretched and sat on those steps run after run, I felt God telling me to move home. He wasn’t just telling me, He was calling me. I felt His calling to surround myself with others that would help me grow and lift me up. He wanted to give me what only He knew I needed--a community focused on Him. In those moments, I felt that gut wrenching feeling that gives you chills because you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that someone else is watching over you.
Joshua 1:9 reminds me that I cannot run, I cannot hide, and I cannot move Him. He will move with me. He is my counselor, my consultant, my shepherd and in Him, I will find the HOPE that sometimes seems far away.
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
A few months later, I moved home and God blasted my expectations out of the water. I reconnected with friends I hadn’t seen in years. I built God-centered relationships with them--I prayed with them, studied with them, and eagerly awaited the times when we got to laugh together. I joined a Bible study, and another one, and another one. God had also blessed me with time in this season of edification. I wasn’t working for a few months, and while I saw that as I challenge, I also knew He was providing me that time to work on my relationship with Him. To grow in His presence. I was blessed beyond measure (I still am) for taking a leap that only He could have planned.
The worst and best part about all of this is that I still lose HOPE every now and then. God still uses moments in my life to serve as trials to put me on a rocky path that leads me back to His ‘calm waters’ of peace and love. And I literally mean, ‘calm waters’. My greatest moments with God have been when he places me next to water (a river, an ocean, a lake, even a puddle). This is where He speaks to me. This is where I feel anchored in His presence.
“Faith is being sure of what you HOPE for and certain of what you do not see.” Hebrews 11:1
Hebrews 11:1 is that it has always been my verse. I know we all have one, and this is mine. Before I lost HOPE, this was my verse. When I found HOPE again, this was definitely my verse. It means about 100 different things to me and every time I read it, it challenges me in new ways I never expected.
I am sure of what I “HOPE for” and I am “certain of what I do not see”: God’s constant and unwavering hand in my life.
I pray that you never have to experience a season in life without HOPE. But if you ever get to that point, I challenge you to seek Him with such reckless abandon that He meets you at a place where His peace and love abound.
"Spirit lead me where my trust is without bordersLet me walk upon the watersWherever You would call meTake me deeper than my feet could ever wanderAnd my faith will be made strongerIn the presence of my Savior" (Hillsong United - Oceans)