I was born for summer. 

100 degree dry heat. 
Ice cream melting quickly.
Suntan lines & sandy toes. 
The smell of cilantro & suntan lotion.  

This is my 7th summer in this city.
And it is truly a great place come June. 
From June to December I cannot praise Chicago enough. 
Come January to May I cannot stand it for a minute longer. 

Let's not even talk about Chicago during those months. 

The last two summers were very hard. And I had very little joy. Very little excitement over things that typically brought me immense happiness with little or no ease.

I fought hard to get to the normal place. 
The place where late nights on the back porch meant something. 
Where sticking my toes in the sand felt like home. 
Where farmers markets and windows down sent a thrill through me. 

But it was always just out of reach. 

I have pictures from the last two summers & my smile is sad. My eyes are heavy. I am not me. And I remember each moment like it was yesterday. 

Trying. Trying so hard. And nothing. 

I thought of this season as stealing something from me. It stole my love & zeal & passion for life. It stole my love for God's Word. For phone conversations with my mom, and coffee shop dates with Taylor. I felt unable to get past things that were not that hard, and completely flattened by things that were. 

I missed everything. 
I missed God.
I missed Taylor. 
My friends & family.

I missed myself.

These summer days are much different. And it makes me cry, but the tears are different. They are tears of joy. Not confusion. Not chaos. 

I see now that those two summers were not really stolen from me. Though they felt robbed. 

The thief really was a giver. 

I was given a heart so soft that God could ask anything of me right now & I would give it to Him.  You do not get a heart like that in any other way than suffering- I am sure of this.  I was given eyes to see sadness in others as being something that truly needs ministering too- not just something they are selfishly choosing.  I was given compassion.  Empathy.  I was given understanding for so many of the words the Psalmists & the Prophets spoke.  

I was given more grace than I could imagine.  

Notions I once so nonchalantly held were thrown out the window. Black & white opinions started to turn to gray. And instead of an unwillingness to understand out of ignorance, I was forced to truly understand out of experience. 

God did not forsake me. I felt forsaken. And like I had lost my mind. But I see that He was there. Through the sadness, the fear, the anxiety. 

I fear Christians so often feel they have to fix themselves up for God. They cannot turn to Him unless they have something-anything-to offer. 

I hated that season of my life. It felt like fire was swallowing up my days & I didn't know how to be normal. Be me. Understand it all anymore. 

But now I see I was right where God needed me. Perfectly unable to offer anything. 

And I am much more deeply attached & committed to Jesus than I ever was before.  

I had given my life to Him, to be sure, and I had committed my days to Him- but I need Him now in a way that I didn't before those last two summers.  The last two years.  

I hated those years.
And now I cannot imagine my life, my heart, my relationship with God- without them.
I needed them.
And in a very strange way- I am able to say, "thank you," for them now.  

This summer I have a strange feeling of having something to offer. I feel like, "Ok God I can do this right & this right & make you happy this way." And all I hear is a loving Father saying- "my grace is sufficient for you." 

In summers when I have it more together than others I still am just coming to God only on the basis of His wooing me.  He is the one who calls me out of darkness into His marvelous light.  Time & time again.