Wednesday, April 12, 2017

 - Long-Distance Lollipops -

Pulling into the post office, I glanced at the clock. 10:34am...plenty of time before they closed at 11. That’s the downside to Saturday mornings, in my opinion. So many stores close by lunch, which means I have to go dashing around trying to hit them all (and not get distracted by yard sales, because, HELLO, yard sale junkie here!). I walked in the door, closely followed by about five other ladies, mostly middle-aged and up.

I plopped my package on the counter and the postal worker looked up at me with a bemused smile. My box, about 3 inches x 4 inches, with its bright red bottom and silver-striped lid sat on the scale, looking ridiculously tiny. “I need to ship this little thing” I said, smiling back at her. “Any liquid, fragile, or hazardous items?” she asked. “Nope,” I grinned. “Just four lollipops and a letter.”

Suddenly, the room was filled with the laughter of all the women behind me. Four lollipops?! They undoubtedly thought I must be young and crazy to be paying the postal service to ship four lollipops halfway across the country. As I finished paying, I could still hear the chuckles of the women, even as I walked out the door with a grin on my face. Because they were right...I am young and maybe a bit crazy. But I have a pretty good reason for it.

As many of you already know, Ben and I started a long-distance relationship about three months ago. After twelve years of friendship, we both felt ready to explore a new chapter of our lives, albeit 500 miles apart. While any relationship can be hard, long-distance has a distinct set of challenges to overcome. Communication becomes vital, but also more precious. Time spent together during breaks and vacations becomes far more meaningful. Skype calls and letters become unexpected joys to look forward to. Plain and simple...long-distance is HARD. The doubts and fears that everyone experiences in a relationship seem to triple overnight. Yet, you can’t call them up for coffee the next day to sort it all out side by side.

However, both Ben and I are confident that the paths God has called us to walk are currently in Virginia AND Indiana. I couldn’t be more proud of the way Ben is chasing his dreams at IU, delving deeper into piano performance, and making lasting friendships on campus. Meanwhile, I am in the final stretch of earning my bachelor’s degree in accounting, while working part-time, helping with youth group, and spending time with family and friends. Life is crazy-busy for both of us, and frankly, the distance can sometimes help us to focus on our respective tasks at hand.

But that doesn’t mean the distance wins. 500 miles and a whole lot of statistics against long-distance relationship success (seriously, have you READ the articles out there?!) does not mean we give in. We laugh together, cry together, and pray for each other. We share our daily stories, struggles, and stupid mistakes. We count down the days until we can watch the next Star Wars movie together (yes, he’s finally converting me...) and argue about who gets to drive.

As Ben and I continue growing closer to each other and the Lord, we would absolutely love prayer from YOU all, our dear friends and family. We have received so much wisdom and encouragement already, but we know that any relationship needs plenty of outside support to truly grow and flourish. We’ve also received plenty of “Oh my GOODNESS it’s about time!” remarks, but hey, that’s been happening since second grade so we’re pretty used to it. :) And even as the rest of the world laughs, we’ll keep sending lollipops in the mail to remind each other that life is shorter, sillier, and far sweeter than we could have ever dreamed.

- Riley

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

As I sit here by the bay, with the seagulls squawking happily, the warmest breeze tickling my toes, and the waters of Lake Michigan rippling out as far as the eye can see, this verse makes me stop and smile.

Joni Eareckson Tada visited our church this past Sunday, and it was absolutely incredible to hear her story and listen to her teaching. It wasn’t so much a sermon as it was a living, breathing example right on the stage of how the Lord can truly use our weaknesses to display His strength.

Too often, we view our weaknesses as horrible defects - flaws that must be fixed. I can easily identify with that sentiment, particularly in the last two weeks! But more on that later... :) Joni, however, challenged me to think with a completely different perspective. My weaknesses are there for a distinct purpose: to expose my sins, sanctify me through suffering, and shove me closer into the arms of Christ. Except for the last item, this list ain’t exactly a walk in the park! Which is precisely why God uses these pesky little weaknesses of ours to mold and shape us into His exhausting, redemptive, lifelong process.

As I came home after church, I prayed that God would show me some of my own weaknesses and make me more aware of how they point to Him. As I reflected back on what have been the two hardest, craziest weeks of my life thus far, three main weaknesses stood out to me.

The first one may not sound like a weakness to others, but I can so easily make it an idol in my life: being around the people I love. I have never been away from my entire family for more than a week, and I was never the child who dreamed of summer camps away from home. Although I adore traveling, it usually involves family and friends and thus doesn’t feel as much like ‘leaving home.’ When I signed up for this internship, I knew that leaving my parents, siblings, friends and mentors would be hard, but I never anticipated it being this hard. I am not a person who cries easily, but I think I’ve cried more in the last two weeks than I have in the past two years. Good grief. :) Now that I’m finally settled in, I can look back and chuckle at the strangest little things that set me off sniffling... :)

So how has God used this weakness to show me His strength? Well, He is showing me more every day that although I miss my earthly family like crazy, He is ultimately my heavenly Father who is still watching over me in Michigan, just like He did in Virginia. Not only that, but I have the peace of knowing that He is also guiding and protecting those I left behind in their own daily lives. He is also calling me to live out the Great Commission in my new little corner of the world. Jesus never said, “Go wherever you’re most comfortable, and preach the good news to only the people you feel close to.” Um, no. :) We are called to step out in faith (sometimes sheer terror!) and be lights in the darkness for Jesus, something I hope and pray that I am doing here in this beautiful state of Michigan.

The second weakness I’ve noticed lately is my desire for a steady relationship. Trust me, as a self-proclaimed romantic, this desire has always been around (says the girl who once proposed to a poor fellow preschooler), but I have experienced it more intensely in the last few weeks. Each day seems to bring news of another friend of mine starting to date, getting engaged, or even married. While there has been the potential for relationship, I haven’t felt the Lord calling me to that stage of life quite yet. I’ve always dreamed of marrying young, and moving straight from home into my first shared apartment or house with a new husband to share it with. Apparently, God decided that wasn’t the plan. :) Here I am, living independently, and still quite single!

Yet, this weakness is teaching me two important lessons. The first one is to seek first the greatest Lover of my soul: the One who made it! He loves me more completely and totally than any man ever will, and I am learning to pursue and be pursued by Him on a daily basis. The second lesson is patience. And oh, do I need to learn this lesson. I have never been a patient person and probably never will be! :) But He is calling me to follow His timing, and not my own schedule, however hard that may be.

The last weakness that I have struggled with during this new Michigan adventure is the fear of change. Let me tell you something...if you don’t like change, then I would not recommend moving halfway across the country by yourself to work in a completely new job environment while still taking college classes. :) I have had the rug of routine yanked out from under my feet so many times over the past two weeks that I’ve lost count. From living in Virginia to living in Michigan. From coming to meals every day to making my meals every day. From selling chicken and waffle fries to making fresh donuts by the hundreds every morning. From waking up at 7am to waking up at 5am. From paying virtually no bills to paying for my own gas, groceries, and clothing. From sleeping in a normal bed to dragging myself up into a bunk every night. The list goes on and on and on...


I’ve gotten to live and work with fellow CollegePlus students. I’ve watched them stay up with me until midnight as study buddies and avid encouragers. I’ve gotten to explore in my own car, on my own schedule. I’ve watched more fireworks this year than ever before. I’ve made friends at work with Heidi, Tim, Judy, Janie, Melanie, Tyler, Linda, Toni, Cris, Nicole, and so many more. I’ve seen the sunrise every morning on my way to work at 5:45. I’ve watched the sunset over the water of at least four different lakes. I’ve gotten to hear Joni Eareckson Tada speak at my church. I’ve successfully cooked my own meals for two weeks without starving or setting the house on fire. I’ve washed my own laundry twice now without changing any of the colors. *fistpump* I’ve watched a live Broadway show from the comfort of my own bed. I’ve learned how to make the softest, roundest donuts you’ve ever seen. I’ve learned to call on Jesus more every day, whether to cry on His shoulder, thank Him for the beauty that surrounds me, or simply tell Him about my day.

I may have weaknesses, but they are a distinct part of who God made me to be. He gave me specific areas where I have to cry out, “I can’t do this. But He CAN.” Friends, what are the weaknesses that God has placed in your life? This week, I encourage you to look around and see where He is calling you deeper, pushing you farther, and pulling you closer to Himself. You might not be in Michigan, starting one of the biggest adventures of your life, but I assure you that His lessons are everywhere. Just like Joni encouraged me on Sunday, own your weaknesses! Accept them with hands open wide and let Jesus sanctify you through them every day. With that being said, I’m going to go battle one of my current weaknesses: the terrors of grocery shopping... :)

Til Kingdom come,


Monday, March 7, 2016

Happy Birthday to my lovely little blog!

Wandering Heart is one year old today, and it's unbelievable to think about everything that has happened in one short year! So many stories to tell, but only a fraction made it onto these pages. Over the next year, I hope to write many more!

For today, I just wanted to share part of a paper I wrote for a fantastic Leadership Communication course. This was from the Organizational Communication Study I wrote on the SVCC, with 9 sections totaling about 24 pages. However, the final section made my mother cry (which doesn't happen very often!) and she suggested I share it on here.

So, without further ado, here is what I truly believe about singing.

"Every area of life has been touched and transformed by the Creation, Fall, and Redemption, including the SVCC. We know that singing was a part of God’s perfect creation, because Adam quite literally sang the praises of Eve when he first saw her! In a slightly less factual, but nonetheless beautiful image, C.S. Lewis metaphorically describes Creation in his book, The Magician’s Nephew. “If you had seen and heard would have felt quite certain that it was the stars themselves which were singing, and that it was the First Voice, the deep one, which had made them appear and made them sing.” In the pure and perfect creation, the SVCC would exist just as those stars, singing to the glory of their Creator! However, man chose to rebel against God, leave His presence, and stain the world with sin. Our hearts are no longer in rhythm with God, and we vainly try to sing our own songs rather than the unique melody He wrote for each one of us. The Fall is clearly evident in the SVCC: directors leave, arguments occur, money is scarce, and notes are flat. However, the Fall was not God’s final concert. He orchestrated the most brilliant encore performance the world has ever seen by sending His one and only Son to live perfectly, die undeservingly, and resurrect triumphantly. To those who acknowledge their utter depravity and dependence on Jesus and His sacrifice, He gives us the gift of Redemption! Although sin still runs rampant in the SVCC, there are also countless glimpses of Redemption: a director who loves the Lord, our songs of praise to Him, the kindness and love between choristers, and so many more! Although many choristers are not believers, it is wonderful to know that there are several of us in the SVCC who are singing for an audience of One. I pray that we are lights in the darkness and that God might use us to bring His song of Redemption to our fellow choristers, leaders, and community."

~ Riley

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Do life big.

It's the name of a song by Jamie Grace, and one of my particular favorites. She sings:

I came to give you life,
So spread your wings and fly!
I've got a secret to share,
You are enough to change the atmosphere.

I don't know about you, but I don't always feel like an atmosphere-changer. In fact, I'm not a huge fan of change at all. Change scares me. It's hard enough to change schedules, plans, leaders, or anything else. So the atmosphere?!? I don't know if I'm cut out for this, Lord...

But He knows that I'm a big scaredy-cat, and that's why He gave me a mother who isn't. :) My mother is always encouraging me to reach out, spread my wings, and try things that scare me. In fact, she gave me a challenge for my senior year of high school:

Do at least one new thing every week for the entire school year.

Now, I may not like change, but I do love a good challenge! I started a neat, organized notebook (Because who doesn't love the excuse to start a new notebook? Am I right?!) to keep track of my adventures. I won't bore you with the whole list, but here are a few highlights...

- Visited an antique mall. (I may or may not have almost gotten lost in there...)
- Baked a peach pie. I'm all about setting food goals...
- Finally found a promise ring that I love.
- Learned how to French braid my own hair. I've been trying since 5th grade. *sigh*
- Took the Myers-Briggs personality test. (ESFJ, in case you're curious.)
- Kissed a dolphin. Oh, happiness.
- Learned how to remove wallpaper. It's actually kind of fun, in my opinion.
- Waltzed my way through a private dance lesson with Ben.
- Used my first hashtag. I know, I know... #oldfashioned #whatcanIsay
- Planned a surprise party. Secrets are awesome, just sayin'...

There are many more, some big and others small. Each one, however, has been a new adventure and one step further out of my comfort zone. But the biggest item on this list happened just a few weeks ago, and I'm pretty excited to tell you guys about it.

I'm moving to Michigan. :)

But let me back up... 

Many of you know that I am currently earning my college degree right now through CollegePlus. The student community is incredible, and I have met so many amazing people, both in person and online. Two particular students, Richie and Kasey Friske (Yes, they met through CP, got married, and are literally the cutest couple ever. But I digress...) live and work up at Friske Orchards in Ellsworth, Michigan, in the Charlevoix area. This incredible family farm produces over 5.5 MILLION pounds of fresh fruit and vegetables every year, and has been run by the Friske family since 1962. Besides the farm and orchards, there's also a market, cafe, bakery, children's play area and more! Needless to say, this operation needs many hands to keep the business running smoothly. That's where I come in...

I will be leaving Virginia in late June to go work/intern at the market until the end of October. I will be living with other CollegePlus students on the farm and building memorable friendships with them as well! This will be my first experience living away from home, and I am both excited and terrified. :) There are so many new experiences to be had, and I'm looking forward to tackling each one as it comes. I've never worked full-time before, but a four-month pause in my degree is welcome indeed!

Some of you may have heard this news already, but I know others have not. I wanted to let everyone know, however, why I will disappear at the end of June! (Although a top-secret government mission would be far more exciting to write about. Maybe next year...) The hardest part of this adventure will be leaving you all - my dear friends and family - for a while. However, I would absolutely LOVE it if anyone visited me over the summer. If you're up in the Northern Michigan area, please let me know and I will try to meet up with you! :) Friske's is a beautiful place, and we love our visitors!

So, my dear readers, that is how I am 'doing life big' this summer. :) I'm spreading my wings, taking the jump, and eagerly waiting to see where God takes me on this flight!

~ Riley

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

We visited my favorite place in the world last night.

At least, my favorite place in the world right now. Because I plan to see a whole lot more of this gorgeous globe, and I'm sure I'll find a new favorite. But I digress...  :)

My favorite place in the world is an outcropping of rocks.

Ooh. Rocks. Fabulous, right?

It's called Dripping Rock, which is quite appropriate since the massive grey slabs of stone seem to trickle all the way down the face of the mountain. To access it, you have to hike about 15 minutes through the forest. The path is rocky and hilly, and if you're not careful, you'll twist an ankle in no time.

But right as you run out of breath and start to wonder if you missed the turn, you turn the corner and feel a rush of something I can't even explain.

The view literally takes my breath away. You can see for miles, and everywhere you look there's something beautiful...

The town that I call home, and the ones that surround it.
The twinkle of a million lights as the world goes to sleep but not the people.
The mountains off in the distance, and the ones wrapped around you.
The clouds so close you can almost touch them.
The fields and lakes and forests and hills in our beautiful valley.
The moon and stars, just starting to shine for their nightly parade.

I could spend hours up there, and when I have more time on my hands, I plan to. :) I especially enjoy the view at sunset, when everything is bathed in a soft pink and orange glow. That's when we visited last night, and we stayed up there until the sun was out of sight. Then it was time to hike back to the car.

The forest was almost pitch black, with no moonlight. I slipped on my headlamp, pointed it at the ground, and started walking.

All I could see was the step ahead. And then the next. And the next. And the next. As I carefully picked my way along the path, trying not to kill myself, I was struck by the comparison to my own "walk" through this life.

Every day of our lives, we stumble along our paths, unable to see beyond the next second. We just have to trust the Lord and take the next step...and the next, and the next. When you're a 17-year old girl in her senior year, you feel like those steps are more like a sprint; look up to catch your breath, and you'll land flat on your face. :P

There are so many unknowns ahead (college, relationships, money, family, occupation, place of living, marriage, what I'm going to eat tomorrow, I mean, seriously?!?!...), and the control freak in me absolutely HATES that. I want to look down the path, see the obstacles ahead, and make a detailed, 40-page, illustrated guide on how to best navigate around them.

Sadly, life doesn't work like that. *sigh*

But you know what? It's OK. This is what God has called us to. Leaving the future in His perfectly capable hands. Trusting Him in all our "next steps," both big and small. Following the advice of this verse, so we all remain relatively sane humans:

"Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." - Matthew 6:34

Truer words were never written. :) I forget this verse so often, but last night was a fantastic reminder.

Life gets hard, but God will always light the way.
One step at a time.

~ Riley

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Goodbye, my beautiful plaid vest. Goodbye, my perky little bow tie.

I'll miss you so very much. SVCC just won't be the same without wearing you for every concert. I don't think I'll feel quite as professional without you wrapped around me as I sing.

I've learned many lessons from you. You were a faithful companion as I grew from a shy middle schooler to a confident senior...

You taught me to always be professional, whether on stage or off.
You taught me to make new friends, but always keep the old.
You taught me to branch out, and try things that scare you.
You taught me to appreciate all kinds of music.
You taught me to work hard, especially when I don't feel like it.
You taught me to appreciate my fellow choristers, and help them grow.

I'll always remember you.

*deep breath*

Hello, new red vests. Hello, little floppy ties.

Welcome to SVCC. Welcome to a stage of beautiful singing children. I hope you're ready to work hard, and make us look spiffy.

You have some pretty big shoes to fill, but I think you can do it. I'm excited for the lessons you'll teach me in my last year of choir. I have some requests, if you don't mind...

Please teach me to sing like never before.
Please teach me to reach out and welcome new choristers.
Please teach me to be a leader, both in my music and my choir friendships.
Please teach me to be a chorister that people can look up to.
Please teach me to bless those around me with my music.

I can't wait to meet you.


Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Do you ever have those moments when God pulls back the curtain of glory just a teensy bit, and allows you to glimpse His ENORMOUS power? Those moments are incredible, and I got to be a part of one last night.

And He did it using a broken family, me on headset, and a LOT of lemonade.

I work at Chick-fil-A, and one of the things I love about my job is our outreach to the community. Not only do we provide great food in a safe, family-centered environment, we go outside of our four walls to bring hope and healing to all kinds of people and organizations. And our current focus is a family that truly needs hope.

Steven Short was in a tragic mountain biking accident about a month ago, and after seven days in intensive care, passed away. He was a husband and father, and leaves behind three very young kiddos. My heart just breaks every time I think about what they must be feeling right lose a father, husband, friend, brother, and son. I can't even imagine.

So our store is trying to help ease the burden just a little, and during the month of June, part of the proceeds from every Frosted Lemonade we sell goes straight towards the Short family. But that means I have to get out of my comfort zone (gasp!) and ask each customer at the end of their order. But God says that He uses our weaknesses to show His strength, and I saw that SO vividly last night.

I started out tentatively, asking in rather awkward times, and feeling horribly inadequate. But then people started to say YES. And that was pretty awesome. Sometimes they'd even ask who the Short family was, and I would get to explain what the family was going through.

Our goal for the evening was 85, and the deadline for the shift was 8:00, when I was scheduled to leave. It was about 7:00, and we only needed about 20 more to reach the goal. I was still shocked that I'd managed to sell ANY, but I was praying in between orders that people would continue to say yes, and love on this family.

Now here was the seriously amazing, totally unexpected God moment.

We were down to the last few, and I was getting excited. But the cars were becoming more sparse by the minute. Someone ordered an extra Frosted Lemonade, and then decided they didn't want it, so it was quickly melting. AND it was a diet. And nobody orders the diet ones (I mean, who would want to? :) More sugar, or less sugar? Easy choice there...). I knew it needed to get sold, and fast. As I'm sending up a prayer, the next car pulls up.

"Hi, can I please get a number two, with a Sprite?"

Oh well. Not this car.

"...oh, and a Frosted Lemonade? And go ahead and make it a diet. Thanks!"

*jaw drops*

Guys, we serve a powerful God! He sees our needs, big AND small, and blesses us beyond our wildest imagination. 

"Because he bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath!" (Psalm 116:2) 

I was privileged to see that verse in action last night, and was inspired to reevaluate my prayer life. Do I pray about all things, regardless of their size? Do I trust that He will answer in His own way, not my own? Do I trust Him with all my hopes, fears, and crazy dreams?

Nope. I stumble in this area again and again. But thankfully, His mercy is right there to pick me up. He simply calls me to pray as long as I have breath, and leave the rest to Him.

So I shall call this the "Lesson of the Lemonade" (don't judge...names help me remember things) and will never look at a Frosted Lemonade the same way again. Which is probably what God intended all along.  :)