His Presence Surrounds

I am of long, open-road drives and tree-lined meadows extending for miles. I am of no hills in sight, the glorious smell of hay, the not-so-glorious smell of horses. I am of dried out and prickly grass in the summers. I am of fifteen-minute drives to the pumpkin patch on a crisp autumn morning. I am of hand-delivered Christmas gifts to family friends on December 23. I am of hopeful T-shirts in March—when it’s still too crisp to go without a jacket but wishful thinking takes over.

To be honest, I didn’t even grow up in the country. I’m from the city. But I’m from Texas. And some of my family lives the way all of your stereotyping dreams ever wanted a Texan to live — they live on a ranch, in the middle of vast, lush Texas land, with lots of cows and horses. They even raise horses for a living.

But, though technically I’m a city girl, all of those things defined my childhood, and they define me now. There was nothing that made me more giddy than the chance to go sleep over at my uncle and aunt’s ranch. I got to hang out with my cousins, eat fast food, drink soda, ride horses for hours, and drive through all that open land. Whether it’s the hay, the crisp air, the prickly grass, the braided horse manes, the Christmas lights on the barn, or the thick humidity…it all brings me back to that one place: the ranch.

For since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities — His eternal power and divine nature — have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.
— Romans 1:20
How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!
— Psalm 133:1

I have thought long and hard over what it is that makes me love my family’s ranch so deeply. I realized (and these verses verify that God really understands His children) that it is because my time at the ranch is filled to the brim with all the ways that God shows us love: His creation and His people. By spending time at the ranch, I am surrounded by His unadulterated creation. There are no skyscrapers or office buildings to corrupt His flowers from blooming or His trees from growing. I am engaging with God’s creatures—horses, cows, birds, sometimes sheep. I am with my family, the people I love most.

Time at the ranch fills me with this no-care-in-the-world-and-I-feel-like-a-kid-again kind of joy. Childlike joy. The joy that God offers us through the Holy Spirit.

I am in my last semester at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California. And living here is, without debate, one of the greatest privileges I have had thus far in life. I can walk to the beach whenever I choose, I can drive to the mountains any given weekend, I can hike in the nearby canyons by just driving to a trail ten minutes away. I am surrounded by a community that cares for me and supports me, friends who love me, and professors who encourage me. God is present here, offering me that same type of joy that the ranch offered me way back when.

My hope is that I will find what I found at the ranch in each place that I journey to throughout life. Whether it is in California’s beaches or Texas’ open fields, whether it is in family or friends or strangers, I will continue to search for God in all of it.