a lesson in seeing

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"something about the parameters of simplicity...there's the possibility to really lock in on an idea or a calling or your craft or your imagination. what most people just look past and don't even take in, there's worlds within worlds beneath that if you can take time to actually look at it and unfold it." -josh garrels

prompt no. 10 from cultivate vol. iv: reflect/write about a moment when you discovered something beautiful; this is an exercise in understanding the way you see.

I’ve discovered a lot of beauty in my life, but I had the hardest time choosing one moment under the imaginary pressure of wanting said moment to be quite profound. Dang that overachiever mindset. Profound or not, I couldn’t get my mind away from one beautiful time I discovered this past spring. 

Sarah and I were taking a trip to Virginia in the first week of April. It was our first trip that far on our own! For any of you who do not live in Ohio, let me paint a picture of an Ohio spring for you…in early April, it’s not unusual to see snow. Things are still pretty dead and this is the point in time when many Ohians get a little antsy for warmer weather after 4-8 months of cold ;P That said, our trip to Virginia was like an 8-hour transition into spring. We got to see the seasons literally change from dead Ohio to lush Virginia. It was sunshiney and lovely and I’m pretty sure I commented several times that it was nice to see the color green again! 

When we were about an hour from our destination, we ran into an inevitable detour. I was so happy about the sun, warmth, and green that I really didn’t mind the detour. It wasn’t in the plan, but it was the path we needed to take. What we found was that the winding backroads that forced slow driving were full of hidden gems. We rolled the windows down and watched the sun play with the branches of the trees. It was the kind of backroad glory where you can’t always see what’s beyond the next curve. There’s something incredible about that. I remember in that moment feeling unhurried, unworried, and full of contentment. I chose to see the blooms on the unexpected path before I saw the inconvenience of the detour. It was like God was using this whole thing as one big metaphor, whispering through warm breezes, “look, here in this place, on the road you didn’t plan, you can relax. I’ve got this under control.” 

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The whole trip to Virginia was focused largely on my future at Liberty University. Being at Liberty gets me excited about a new thing every minute. There’s passion for Jesus, stunning views, and great food. I was excited about finding a major that seemed to fit me well. Yet one of the days found me alone, walking in circles and waiting for a bus in the rain (not to be dramatic, but the setting was pretty bleak ;). The enemy whispered things like you don’t even know who you are. how can you possibly think you belong in a place like this? look, you’re lost and alone. I was discouraged at the thought of making Liberty work financially. Would my classes from community college here in Ohio transfer? Would I be able to get enough financial aid? Would I be able to keep up with the workload? Would I still be able to do photography? Would people like me? Was it okay that I didn’t have everything figured out, that I was just taking things one step at a time and trying to hear from my Father in all the noise?

As the weekend went on, I felt reassured a million times over that yes, I can belong here and yes, if I’m meant to be here, God will provide for me. Yes, it’s okay if I don’t have everything figured out. Yes, you can take a non-traditional path to college. The plan for me right now involves a few “detours.” I’ll be doing about half of my bachelor’s degree here in Ohio at a community college, and hopefully transfer to LU in a little over a year with almost two years of school completed. People don’t intentionally look down on community colleges, but there is a stigma nonetheless. Community college wasn’t always in the plan, but it’s the path we needed to take, and I’m so so so grateful for it! Another detour is this uncertainty of what God’s called me to. I’m interested in many things, and don’t know exactly how those things will fit into fulfilling kingdom work. The uncertainty is rough, and that’s never going to change. What can begin to change is the way I see the road I didn’t plan.

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I told a friend as a joke that the place we live in (not exactly the most glamorous spot in Ohio) only sucks if you choose to see it that way. It made both of us chuckle, but it’s a true statement. To be clear, I love living where I do and like that statement says, wherever you are is only terrible if you choose to have that attitude about it. This season, here in the “detour,” holds deep significance. It’s the carry-to-eternity kind of important.

You get to choose. Every morning, I get to choose, how to see the road I didn’t plan. How to see the waiting and uncertainty. The picture I keep coming back to is driving slow through roads of unfamiliar and newness…and feeling so at ease. I want the entirety of my life to be seen through a lens of belief that God calls me to thrive exactly where I am. To persistently, stubbornly even, seeing the beauty in the here & now. To choose to see the blooms on the path before I see the inconvenience of the journey. God’s goodness doesn’t begin tomorrow; His goodness and mercy are coming after us ALL the days of our life. Today. 

The road I didn’t plan holds way more treasures and lessons than I would believe. I get to choose how to see it.

Aliyah Burton