Morgan Harper Nichols is a musician, writer, and artist who daily writes poetry and creates art to inspire and encourage others. I love these words that she wrote and feel like they perfectly sum up the spot in life I am in right now!
You have learned so much since last year. You have grown in ways you never imagined you would grow. It may not have seemed like in the moment, but now, you can look back and see: even in the most subtle ways, you have come so far.
I have recently been reflecting on and thinking about all of the ways that studying graphic design has completely captured my heart. I have been slowly (and sometimes painfully) been falling in love with design.
Here is why.
I used to have this idea that learning graphic design was about learning how to make things look nice. And to some extent, yes, design is about making things look pretty. But, designers also get a unique opportunity to make the world easier to navigate and more understandable.
My first two years of college were about learning the technical skills of design. We learned everything from layout and typography to image research and creating well-made graphics. Of course, I am always learning more about the inner workings of the programs I use and the ways that layouts look nice or typographical hierarchy. I use these technical and formal skills everyday in everything that I design.
As I get into my upper level design courses, my professors are focusing on teaching us about how to THINK. I am learning how to engage the ideas I am designing about and how to use my designs to make statement or question something that is happening in the world around me. For example, for our last project we were learning how to make infographics. While we learned how to technically create an infographic that looks nice, we also had to choose a topic, research the topic, and then create our project about that topic. I decided to research homelessness in Chicago and the role of the church in housing and caring for the homeless. I researched an issue and then presented a piece of design work that critically engaged the issue of homelessness and questioned the churches role in providing care for the homeless.
DESIGN IS ABOUT SO MUCH MORE THAN MAKING SOMETHING PRETTY and that is why I am falling more and more in love with what I am studying. I am studying design because it is about the world. It is about all the pieces of the world and learning how they fit together. It is about PEOPLE and people's experiences in the world and how we can make experiences for people more meaningful. It is about research. It is about formal and aesthetic qualities. It is about creativity. It is about critical thinking. And most of all it is about being engaged and aware of the things that are happening and experiences that people are having, and then responding to those things.
I love (and sometimes hate) the way that graphic design pushes me. It pushes me to be a more engaged and thoughtful person. It pushes me to be more aware of the world around me. It pushes me beyond what I am comfortable doing and challenges my skills, thoughts, and ideologies. It forces me to learn. Throughout every project and in every step of the way I am learning. Graphic design pushes me to states of feeling stuck. I get stuck in my head and in creative ruts. Design forces me to get through those and find ways out of them and around them.
I am so thankful that I have the opportunity to study graphic design at Trinity Christian College. I never thought that a small interest would turn into a fire and a passion that proves me capable of more than I ever thought I would be. I look forward to the years ahead learning, designing, and growing as a person and as a designer.
Last night, I was reflecting on the season of life that I am in right now. Right now I seem to be in this in-between time. It is summer, in between my sophomore and junior year of college. This past school year was one of the hardest of my life. It demanded all of my energy, attention, and strength. I walked in and out of darkness each day trying to hang on God's hope and the good things that happened in my day. On top of that, a dating relationship I was in for over two years recently ended. I now have a summer job that I’m not a fan of. I’m trying to adjust to life back home with two brothers and parents checking in on me. Many parts of this season aren’t fun. I'm trying to recover from a tough year. Sometimes I am bored at work, I feel the heartache of a lost relationship, and I crave the independence of being back at school. I want the next thing that life has for me. But what if this season is exactly where I am supposed to be?
I started thinking about Psalm 23, and the line “He Restores my soul” came to mind.
Every day I wear a necklace. It is one that I got on my trip to Israel a few years ago. The necklace spells out a Hebrew word that roughly translates to "enough." The Hebrew word refers back to Psalm 23 when God promises that we will lie down in green pastures; the Psalm says that God will give us "enough" for right now and we have to trust that He will give us enough for the next moment and next step we take. Just like sheep in the desert have to trust that the “green” pastures will be enough food for them now, and for their next steps. There’s something important to note, though. In Israel, green pastures are more like tufts of straw sticking out of the ground, definitely not very green or even very comfortable. They can be sharp and pokey, and few and far between.
I wonder if I am in a "He restores my soul" season. Sometimes, yes, it feels like I am lying on top of pokey tufts of straw-like grass. This spot in life may not be super comfortable or luscious or even feel like it is very green. There are dark nights and long days and even some scrapes and discomfort that come with that tough grass. What if God is using this season to restore me, heal me, and fill me? I often find myself getting fearful and anxious. I want to know exactly what is ahead and what my next steps are. I want to know that I will have enough strength to get me through those next steps. But I think, in this season, God is asking me to lie down and let him restore my soul. He beckons me to trust that he will give me both the energy and nourishment for the next step I have to take…for each moment of each day. When I can accept and recognize that, I think that is where I can find joy and fulfillment and let his nourishment for today be enough for me. It is nourishment that will always satisfy and give me life and freedom when I accept it. He will guide my next steps, even if they might be a little pokey or give me scrapes.
This season of in-between time is a call to live now. It’s a call to lie down and let God’s nourishment be enough for me. It’s call to trust what comes next. It’s a call to recognize that God’s restoration doesn’t always come in luscious green grass painted on rolling hills. Sometimes it comes through the tufts of straw-like grass that I am walking on and lying in. Because in the in-between seasons there can be healing and restoration.
the fact of being who or what a person or thing is
Recently I was in the car with some relatives. One made a comment about "gays and lesbians" and how they are "people who just want to fit in so that's what they call themselves because they don't know how else to identify." I was slightly shocked at the comment. I have grown up in a house where you are accepted for who you are. No matter what, you are loved, accepted, and welcome. This comment felt hostile and exclusive and I am aware that much of our culture thinks similarly. I began to unpack this comment.
I asked myself, aren't we ALL longing to belong? Don't we ALL look for different ways to satisfy the gaping hole in our hearts? Don't we ALL desire to be known, loved, and accepted?
This world gives us so much "filler." It tells us that if we only had _____ or did _____ then we would be happy. Then we would be popular, loved, filled etc. For so long in my life, I kept thinking that if only I was skinnier, well then I would be happy and feel like I belong. Or, if only I had a boyfriend, well then I would be accepted and belong to someone. I started filling my life with exercise and the longing for a boyfriend. I was on a quest to complete myself and feel fulfilled and feel like I belonged. And yet the longer I kept this up, the more exhausted I became and emptier I felt. I continued this quest until my boyfriend was everything to me. Then the relationship ended. All of my earthly pursuits to find myself, my identity and belonging came to a screeching halt and fell apart (including my life plans of marriage, a house, future job, and kids). I felt emptier and more lost than I have ever felt in my life.
And guess what? Since I didn't have any of my earthly pursuits to turn to for fulfillment anymore, that's when I decided to turn to God. I didn't know what else to do. That's when I recognized the Holy Spirit in my heart inviting me to let him fill me. The God of creation whispered to my empty and longing heart to let him fill the desires of my heart. To let him be my pursuit. As I dove into the Word and pursued the truths he speaks through his word, I began to find a settling peace and fulfillment. He began to fill the longing of my heart and I could come as I was. According to the world I was lost and empty. Everything fell apart. Yet my heart was full of God's love and peace because I didn't have to have it all together, look a certain way, fit into the perfect clothes or have a boyfriend and a life planned out in order to be loved and accepted by God. I began to reframe the way I saw myself and reclaimed my identity as one found in Christ.
In the gospels, we read the story of a God that came down to earth in human form, as Jesus Christ. Jesus entered a pain and sin filled world. It was full of people pursuing earthly things to fill their hearts. Jesus came to them and invited them to come to his streams of Living Water. Water that will never run out - water that we can chase after and pursue without growing empty. When Jesus was crucified, he hung between 2 sinners. Two common people with lives and with families who hang in their sin and shame. God's love for humanity prompted God to descend to death between two commoners. What else does this show us than that there is love enough for EVERYONE in Jesus. In His death and resurrection, we are all welcomed into the family of God and we find that our pursuit for belonging can only be satisfied in him. We can bring our sin, shame, scars, and empty earthly pursuit because he welcomes us in with open arms and tells us the truth about who we are. We are loved children of God welcomed home as he fills us with the hope, truth, peace, and grace of his presence.
If I could go back in time to that car conversation with my relative, I think I would respond the comment that was made with a question. Don't we all long to belong? Don't we all desire to identify ourselves as something? Don't we all want to fit in? And don't we all try to fill our hearts with earthly things to try to satisfy our hunger? Regardless of what we pursue to fill out hearts, we can reclaim the identity Jesus gives us: that we are all loved and all welcome and he invites us to be a body. Because in the cross we find a God who hung between two sinners - just like you and just like me and he showed us that there is room for EVERYONE and Jesus's love is big enough for EVERYONE. Regardless of background, past sins, sexual orientation, race, gender, ethnicity, worldview, and political affiliation.
In light of Easter Sunday and the celebration of Jesus's resurrection we are invited to live as children who have been claimed by God and given a name in Him. May we live as children loved and welcomed into the family of God through Jesus's death and resurrection!
Spring break has often been a time where I am home and where I quickly become an expert at scrolling through Instagram and comparing my (lack of) bikini body with the bikini pictures that fill my feed from warm places. While I have come to appreciate a quiet week at home relaxing and working, I have also aways craved an escape or getaway like so many of my friends always got. This year some friends and I decided to plan a road trip down south to North Carolina and Tennessee to take advantage of the mountains, scenery, and primitive feel of camping in a tent. I wanted to get away and do something different. We planned a trip and all of the sights we would see and places we would hike.
When we made it to our first destination, Lake Norman State Park in Troutman, North Carolina, we settled down reveling in the beauty of creation and with giddy excitement for the week ahead. After a night of chilly sleep (30 degrees chilly) in a tent, I woke up at the crack of dawn. I took my Bible, journal, and a lawn chair down to the shimmering lake and spent some time in meaningful prayer and communion with the Lord. During this time, I decided that I wanted to learn surrender and learn what it means to surrender my whole life and future to God. There are some things that have been going on in my life that I specifically wanted to surrender. I sang "I surrender all" and felt the Spirit of the Lord come upon me in the form of a rushing wind. I felt peace and I felt myself letting go of my life and my future and putting it in the Lord's hands. Little did I know that my prayer was a dangerous one in the sense that God was going to answer it in ways I didn't see coming.
The first bump in the road was a literal bump in the road in the form of a flat tire. Soon the week came and went and was full of disappointments or wanderings away from the plan. Parks were closed, mountain roads were bumpy and filled with pot holes, hikes were cancelled, the van was slept in, rainy days persisted, and lots of hippies were trusted. However throughout these disappointments, we were able to watch as God provided people right where we needed them, safety down the mountain roads, and opportunities to trust Him when we were most uncertain and afraid. Little did I know when I prayed that "Surrender" prayer, the Lord would answer it in ways I wouldn't expect.
Our Spring break trip gave me opportunities to reflect what trust and surrender looks like. When I prayed that the Lord will teach me surrender, he provided clear and scary opportunities for me to really TRUST and SURRENDER. NO, our trip didn't go as hoped or planned. But, YES, we have stories of God's faithfulness and goodness. YES, we got to spend a week exploring God's beautiful creation. YES, we created deep bonds that go beyond casual campus conversations. And YES, we have memories that will last a lifetime.
Praise be to the God who answers our hesitant and even dangerous prayers!