When I picked up the phone, it was Jane Armstrong: the spiritual mamma of Miami Cru for 30+ years. "Hi Taylor. We are having a special 'women's Cru' in a couple weeks. I was hoping that night that you would share your insights about Biblical Femininity that we talked about the other day!"
Of course, Jane.
Biblical Femininity was one of my favorite topics at the time and I started working on my message right away. I felt honored and excited that Jane picked me, a sophomore, to be a teacher that night and I was determined to kill it.
The meeting came, I gave my 7 minute 2 cents, and that was that as far as I knew. A few days later, I got a Facebook message from Emily Patton, a freshman girl whom I had never met. "Hi Taylor! My name is Emily and I'm a freshman here and I'm a part of Cru. I really have loved every time you've spoken at Cru and your messages about being a Godly woman have really inspired me! I was wondering if you'd meet me for coffee or something next week or whenever!"
I read that and my heart melted. I didn't expect to "see" the fruit of my message, but God had another idea. Emily and I met a couple of times to hang out and get to know each other when something started to gnaw at me. Cru teaches about Discipleship. It's essentially mentoring and training others up into Christian truths. I began to pray about possibly being a "discipler" for Emily. The next time we met, I popped the question. "Em, I don't know if you've been thinking about this, but I have. You can totally say no, but I would love to make this a regular thing and be a discipler for you." She giggled and said she had been thinking about it too and would love that.
Let's do this, Emily. I love you.
Meanwhile, I was having Psychology classes with the adorably quirky Abigail Wenger. We would stuff our faces into our arms to keep from laughing out loud during class at some joke we whispered, we would go deep and talk about life on our way home from class, and we slowly became more than just classmates. The afternoon was beautiful when Abigail popped the question to me, "Hey, Taylor, I just really look up to you and I wondered if you would disciple me?"
Wow. Of course, Abigail. I love you.
"I wish I knew the words so I could sing with you!" I said to a fiery red head freshman. We both found ourselves at a protest against a hate preacher on Miami's campus. She was playing guitar and singing worship music and I was buzzing around giving hugs to whoever was having a meltdown. As the semester progressed, Naomi Latta and I began to connect on all things worship leading and what it means to live like Jesus in college. Naomi, too asked to be taken under my wing.
Absolutely, Naomi. I love you.
It was somewhere between 2-4am on the Friday of RezWeek my Junior year and weird stuff was happening. Partying students were meandering back to their dorms from uptown and some were a little rowdy. Two of our girls were asleep in the tent, three other girls were around the tent trying to offer hot chocolate to the chilly students, and a couple boys were keeping an eye out for trouble. Before we knew it, one drunk guy jumped into the side of the tent, tearing it and knocking over a chair onto one of the sleeping girls, we saw a fight break out down the sidewalk which one of our guys ran to check on, and I saw two unfriendly guys skulking around our tent now guarded by only one guy. Claire Mullaney and I locked eyes as fear and slight panic started to set in. We each grabbed our phones; I started calling every guy I knew to come and help keep us safe and Claire called the police. It was quite a sight to watch three cop cars appear out of nowhere and speed up onto the sidewalks, ask what the trouble was, and take off to find the scary dudes.
This random and epic experience was enough for Claire and I to bond and want to walk in step. "Taylor, my discipler is graduating. Would you want to disciple me?" Could I handle four disciples? I told Claire I would pray about it and the Lord downloaded an excitement into me for her calling and healing which I couldn't walk away from.
Join the team, Claire. I love you.
Discipleship has wrecked me. It has shown me my finitude and my limits better than anything that I've been apart of. I can never pray enough, I can never find all the right Scriptures, I can never give the perfect advice, and I can never be a perfect friend no matter how hard I try. As someone whose life calling is to encourage others into their callings, it's been easy to get down on myself for how I've lead and shepherded. But I can't be perfect. I can only give all of me and all my story, the mess included, and hope that Jesus shines through. And I can say confidently that I've poured out that and I hope they feel filled.
Discipleship has also built me. To walk alongside these precious girls through their joys and sorrows and to be thanked for it is an honor unlike any other for me. When I teach, I am taught, when they cry, I am wounded, when they rejoice, I feel the victory. I've gotten to see God's unique grace on their lives up close and personal and I tuck away every testimony I can to strengthen my own trust in Jesus. The risk of opening my heart and life to the imperfect and wonderful humans these four are seems infinitesimally small compared to the absolute love that we've shared.
As I look into my blurry and bright future, I can hear God whispering to me to never forget these four and the journey that has been discipleship. If I cannot give my full self to someone, I am doing them a disservice. If I stay behind written words, if I stay in the pulpit, if I cannot drive to the nearest cozy table, not buy coffee after coffee after coffee to create a space of safety and vulnerability, then my discipleship is less than. If I can train others to do my job, but not continue in that same job, my empathy dulls. If I stay too far from transformation, the wonder that my heart longs to express and see falls slowly to sleep.
Discipleship is the dirty work of the Kingdom. It is the mechanism of advancement. It is the only way to do ministry. To do life. To do family. To do pastoring. To do writing. To to anything. Stay close to people's tattered hearts. Too close for comfort. There you will find more of Jesus that you ever thought possible.
Emily, Abigail, Naomi, and Claire, thank you for an unforgettable three years. I can say with full confidence that you guys are standing on my shoulders and reaching new heights; heights higher than I could lead you to. Callings bigger than my prayers. Hearts so smitten with Jesus that you all are intensely inspiring to me. Our friendships are treasures to me and my graduation only means distance of space and not of hearts. Never stop learning from those who have gone before you, never stop being thankful, never hold back a kind word, don't lose sight of who makes your hearts feel at home, never settle for anything less than abundance with Jesus, and lose yourself in His Word. I am tirelessly on your teams.
You are loved and lovable. You are beautiful. From your smile to your soul, I hope that the doubts are few and the celebrations are many. The geography of your heart is worth exploring and loving and it is too wonderful to keep hidden. Over these three years, I have watched you walk out from behind countless prison bars as you take the freedom that is rightfully yours. Take courage and take heart, your struggles are not you and you possess the power to rise above them. The love you have for people is like the ocean. Constant, stunning, and overwhelming. Never let that frighten you. People need that kind of love and you won't be satisfied without expressing it fully. Jesus is in the depths of you, on the surface of you, and everywhere you are. Just your presence makes every space more like Heaven. Jesus loves when you are in the secret place with Him. He longs to make that place your daily experience, to take you by the hand and reassure you of His love and your absolute worthiness to be named His daughter. Let your tattoos keep speaking to you and let the Holy Spirit add meaning upon meaning to them. I hope you can name times where I've failed you and I hope you can experience the awesomeness of Jesus never failing you. I hope you never let go of your dreams and I hope your heart never calluses. May God's Word be the safest place for you and prayer the space that you constantly dwell in. You truly are a woman of valor, strength, and humility.
Your future only has brightness for you and your life brings light wherever you go. You are God's daughter which means you are in the best of hands. You are not alone. A part of me rushes alive when I'm with you that normally takes some coaxing. I think that speaks to who you are: you are a freedom fighter and a freedom bringer. Your relentless pursuit of life-giving truth has challenged me and built me up in ways that others are too timid to delve into. Your honesty is your greatest weapon. While your discernment may not always be understood by people, keep listening, keep trusting, and keep praying until peace reigns. You know what peace is. You know how to lead people into it. You are a trustworthy leader. At your feet lie all the giants you've slain and they are dead forever. In your right hand is the sword of the Spirit of God and in your left is those who you love and who love you. You are a warrior in the Kingdom and I know in this next season you will war in the Spirit in dramatic and powerful ways. God will provide you with the community you need and the leaders you trust, but always remember there are countless more ways to experience God's perfect leadership in your life. He is ready to run when you are.
Your place in my heart is steadfast and unmoving. Your place in the Kingdom is one of honor and power. God sees you as His confidant. He has made you to love the quiet so that He may give you visions, words, and dreams about what His throne room is like. When you sing and make a joyful noise to Him, you know what His throne room looks like, and you know how to lead others into it. You are a messenger of His glory not only when you make music, but when you make spaces beautiful, when you look people in the eye, and when you allow them into your story and into the delicate places of your heart. The Lord loves to enter into your protected and peaceful heart and to love you there. He is ready to bring you into His inner chambers and tell you of glories and secrets that He only trusts you with. You are always bigger and ready for more than you think you are. May you see yourself clearly. May you see others clearly. May you never step outside of the words that God has whispered to you.
You are deserving of love and you give it powerfully. The quiet and steady awe in your heart towards the Word and the hope that God has given you is a sturdy foundation for everything else He wants to teach you. I hope you see yourself clearly, Claire. You are a sight. I hope you see triumph, power, beauty, wisdom, and worth because I do and God does. For every time you've asked me, "Where is that in the Bible?" I hope you ask it 1,000 times more. For every tear you've shed over loss, I know you'll rejoice as you watch your story help work transformation and healing in another life. What you have to give to the world is irreplaceable. Who you are deserves expression and a warm welcome. Your childlike spirit and curiosity blesses the Lord and everyone you come in contact with. Jesus loves partnering with you and your dreams more than anything. He is just as excited and determined about your goals as you are. He is so clearly your waymaker, your comforter, your rock, and your friend. Your best days with Him are yet to come and He will never disappoint. Your mothering heart will always set you in high regard, high honor, and high position. God is ready to pour out on you the piece of Heaven He wants you to bring to the world. Let your heart speak, be not afraid, love is risk but it does not fail.
What I've learned about what it means to be transformed into the image of Christ, be reconciled to Him, myself, & others, and how to be His disciple.