Tuesday, December 16, 2008


With the closing of yet another year, I am reaching into my bag of memories - that collection of experiences God gave to me and began or continued working in me over this fleeting time period.

Today I was reading through my journal, (not my diary, mind you) reflecting on what ran through my brain at the time of my entries, and I decided to post a few of them this holiday season for whoever to gain whatever out of them.

The one I'm posting today is called Beauty and I'm sharing this one today because of how it spoke to me; dipping deep into my heart and touching something tender.

My dear Journal,

March 29, 2008

I have always been an admirer and student of beauty. Beauty captures, enlightens, fulfills and delights me. I find beauty everywhere; easy beauty, that is.

I find it in things as lavish as the ripe colors of a winter sunset and the deepness of a medieval painting portraying a tall knight in silver, glowing armour kneeling before a fair lady with golden hair, clad in the purest white.

I find this beauty in the simplest of things like painted daisies on my sister's toenails, wildflowers in an open field, or the bright, pure, smile of a child.

I find beauty in things as rare as a colorful, strutting peacock, who seems to look down, instead of up, at the entire universe. I find it in the incredible architecture built around the world and in the unusual opportunity of watching two people unconsciously fall in love.

And of course, I delight in the beauty of the common; those things that are all around us, every day, there to reach out and receive joy from. The eyes of a striking gentleman, an uncommonly pretty girl, beautiful gowns that ravish the heart, bouquets of roses, timeless musical pieces, the elegance of a quite, country dance, a field of tall, enveloping grass swaying to the tune of the wind, the smile shared between a husband and a wife, silver-haired, but still madly in love - these things that aren't so uncommon, after all.

But in my attempt to culture this taste for beauty, I fear I have become only more inclined towards easy beauty; the kind of beauty that is evident to everyone, the kind that is striking, no doubt. But is it satisfying? Do we ever get enough of this kind?

I am quick to spot the pretty girl over the plain; the graceful man over the clumsy. My taste for elegance (and my intense desire to see such surrounding me everywhere and always) often overcomes the good sense which I know should determine how I see the world. This "taste" is not really taste at all. It isn't talent. It's not being well-bred. It's being what everyone else can be - human.

Something is telling me that my eye for easy, obvious beauty fades away the many opportunities I have of seeing beauty in the most unobserved places - the rarest of kinds, only found after a strong desire and a deliberate quest for it. So my easy beauty had better be called, "lazy beauty".

Like beauty, everyone sees and observes rainstorms, but it takes true taste, true talent, true heart, true compassion to notice the raindrops. And it requires so much more in this extraordinary person to study, bring out, and highlight the tiny drops of water, of which all rainstorms are made. Perhaps, just maybe, these tiny drops of water can teach us far more than the most spectacular rainstorms.

Maybe they will remind us that, after all, some of life's greatest gifts are wrapped in the smallest, most obscure packages. And perhaps we'll begin to understand the many dimensions of beauty; discovering that the deepest ones are the hardest and most unusual to find.

And maybe we'll remember that we're not the Creator, that we do not think like Him, and that we should not be taking lessons from our own books of human wisdom to define what is truly beautiful.

Let me see and study the splendor of beauty forever, praising the great Creator of it, lest I grow dull and lifeless, without a heart of joy; without a heart of gratefulness. May I never grow unperceptive to any kind of beauty, because yes, it is everywhere.

Once I am blind to it, I am blind to all. ~

Thursday, October 9, 2008


“Love is what we were born with. Fear is what we learned here." - Marianne Williamson


Unfortunately it's a word that is rarely used in reference to human relationships.

Somehow it's strange. Somehow it's uncomfortable. For some reason, hardly anyone practices it.

Well...she's a bit different. She wears dark clothes and dark makeup, and her straightened hair falls over who knows what kind of eyes she has.

She slouches against the doorway of a room buzzing with life and activity, like a wallflower afraid to be one.

Her attitude speaks louder than her words.

But wait. She hasn't spoken yet. We haven't allowed her to.

Finally, someone chooses to single her out in the crowd. She extends a hand, and the long hair falls back from her face, revealing the bluest, deepest eyes.

Ten bracelets line her arm, but her grasp is the kindest we've ever felt. She speaks, and authenticity rings through her voice and says more than her words do.

She is a deep river, found beneath the rocky landscape of the world. But she's afraid and she's clinging to the image of someone she's not.

He's all put together on the outside; suit, tie, hair - straight from a magazine.

He steps into his office with firmness and presents business plans that are stamped with confidence.

His eyes laugh, dancing from the reflection of all and any light. But if we look closely, do we see fear lurking behind them?

He smiles at his colleagues, but underneath the suit, underneath the smile and underneath the confidence, he's kicking and screaming, finished with happiness and tired of life.

If we didn't read past his firm handshake and his measured pace, we'd never really know him. And he would never be able to change.

Why is that we go to church every Sunday and never really know our fellow church-goers - even the one sitting next to us?

Why are we bound by fear, afraid to be ourselves in an open, honest way? Why do we grab an image and cling to it, portraying it as the real revelation of ourselves when it is just a mask, a cover-up for the real person inside?

Why is it that an entire world is content with passing each other every day, living and working with each other and continually dwelling with each other on a level of superficiality?

No one wants to open up. No one wants to be rejected. And that's understandable.

Everyone wants to be understood, but there seems to be a rarity of understanding people just now. That explains why there's a startling abundance of hurting ones.

There is something that our world needs more than televangelists, tracts, radio programs, and churches, believe it or not.

Transparent people. Understanding hearts.

Someone once said, "If you can teach a heart to trust you, you can teach it anything." So true. I suppose the opposite must also be true. If you can't teach a heart to trust you, you can't teach it anything.


I am guilty of doing this so many times. Trying to teach when I should be listening. Trying to keep my image together when I should be throwing it down, revealing exactly the kind of person I really am. Trying to get compassion when I should be giving it.

I worry about the salvation of the world and forget about the unsaved in my own family. I am concerned about the people in my city not having anyone to truly know them, and I never bother to really know my best friend. I am so often focused on the outward; that shallow image, and never think to dwell on the heart.

I am charged with hypocrisy by my own conscience and the whispering of a small voice deep inside me.

I tell the world its faults, and neglect to reveal my own. I do my best to cover my sinful tracks, and my utmost to discover others.

And just when I think I am deep, I am beyond all others the most shallow. I can hide my heart the best.

Change comes when we find in ourselves in need of a Saviour.

It shows itself to the world when we reveal our sinful hearts to the heart next to us, revealing ourselves as real people, with real problems and hurt, as well as real hearts.

Hope never whispers its arrival. When it speaks, it is loud and victorious. It opens up its gates and pours out blessings. It tells the world who is its Master and why they are loved. It gives purpose to souls, throwing open doors of opportunity for the kingdom of God.

Its reach is unfathomable. Its effect is utterly indescribable. And it's here, ready for the taking, prepared for a great experience - ready to redeem. Me. You. The world.

But it begins with us. It begins in my heart, when I choose everyday to leave my mask on the shelf and put on the love of Jesus Christ. It starts when I've decided to listen instead of be heard. When I turn to the person next to me and ask how they are. When they reply, "Fine. How are you?" it begins when I look into their eyes, beyond the disguise, past the hurt, and ask, "No - how are you really?"

A revelation hits me in the form of a word, and I think I know its name.

Sometimes we call it love. Sometimes we call it hope. But it has told me its name.

We call it redemption.

And it will change the world.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

When I've Failed

He looks me straight in the eyes and down into my heart.

Somewhat like a lover.

He knows everything I'm thinking, and feels my hurt before I even say a word.

Somewhat like a best friend.

He wraps His mercy around my cold shoulders and puts comfort, like a bandage, upon the part of my heart that is most wounded.

Kind of like a physician.

He steps down from His pedestal of light and sits with me in the dark, holding my hand and speaking love without saying anything.

Sort of like a father.

He crowns me with righteousness and calls me His own.

Somewhat like a King.

My heart stands amazed at the greatness of a King that saw me in my sin, chose me as His own anyway, and forever will call me that. My spirit soars every time I experience His greatness in a new way.

I see the love of the Father God in the eyes of a child. It speaks in unearthly tones and reaches the coldest of hearts. Who can say that love like that is earthly? It is utterly inhuman and completely miraculous.

My soul shakes as I observe the power of the Most High in the wind that bends trees to the ground, lightning that sets the sky on fire, and the thunder that shakes the ground I'm standing upon.

At this moment I cannot imagine denying His presence. But why is it that tomorrow, when I'm faced with a simple choice - to choose God or myself - I deny His presence and live for my flesh?

Why is it that when I experience His love in another human being, I feel like I could love the entire world, but when faced with an unlovely person, I find a great, fleshly struggle is lying in the shadows, ready to conquer me if I let it?

My soul wonders why the embers of my soul are stirred up so swiftly when watching others witness about the great things God has performed in their lives - taking them places they'd never dreamed they'd be, transforming their lives, and bringing change through them to many people. I now wonder why I can't see past the end of my nose, past the footstep I'm standing in, and see the beauty, change and joy God is prepared to work in me...just beyond these times. Why are there times when my heart has no problem believing, and other times when it takes the greatest effort to?

The reason is one of those most quickly forgotten.

I'm human.

That's not profound, perhaps. I am a sinner. In itself that's not profound, either, but on a daily basis, I find this fact powerful:

I can do absolutely nothing on my own.

But seeing great things being done in the lives of so many other people reminds me of the source of those great things.

It's the same eyes that look right through me every time I stand before them with my hands open and repentance in my heart.

It's the same great mind that reads my thoughts and has had every solution formed since before the dawn of time.

It's the mercy that forgives me each time I try to win on my own, fight on my own; run, fly, change on my own.

It's the empathy that touches the hurting side of me when I'm sitting in the dark. I'm not in the dark alone.

It's the same great love and majesty that clothes me in purity and calls me its own.

He's my Lover, Best Friend, Physician, Father and King.

If I remember that He is always here with me and that He alone holds my existence, the passion will never die, the strength will never weaken, and I will always have the power to do right, to be right, and to obtain change in my heart and life.

Why do I ever think I can do anything on my own?

Before change can ever be attained in the world, it must be attained within ourselves. And before we try, try and try again to change without success, we must realize that all change comes from the great source of change - our mighty God and Him alone.

Otherwise our attempts will be futile. Quite, quite futile.

Now that I've thought about it, why do I ever want to do anything on my own?

All right, friends. Tell me about this when I've forgotten. Remind me of this when I've failed.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Season of Change

Part of me wishes summer could last forever.

There's something in the rays of sunshine baking warm bodies like cookies on a tray, something in the bare feet running down either gravel roads or sizzling sidewalks, something in the tingle of wiggling fingers dipped in an ice-cold, running creek. There's something in all of those things that's hard to duplicate.

Maybe that's because I'm a summer girl. I was born in the winter, but my heart always awakens with the first dawn of a June morning. Something about summertime makes me feel perfectly bliss, and I think I've defined what it is. Comfort.

Summer means no school for many of us, and for those of us who have school during the summer months, it generally means less school and more free time. Summer also gives the much-appreciated chance for extra summer jobs for those industrious spirits among us, and the chance to spend more time on projects with friends.

During summer, our good times (for the most part) aren't inhibited by icy roads and snowstorms; rainstorms and short days. For me, summer means a time to enjoy life. And that's what I do nearly every summer. Enjoy life.

But summer doesn't last forever, unfortunately. Maybe it's not that unfortunate, though. Think about it. If summer had the rare opportunity of lasting forever, consider the detriment it would be to society. Schoolbooks would gather dust - hence, no one would learn anything from them, parents would be overrun by the constant chaos of the season - providing no schedule and no rest for them, vacations would take precedence over lives instead of work, and that perfect state of bliss I defined as comfort would become old and worn-out- like a piece of stale bread dried out on the kitchen counter.

The point is: seasons must change in order to secure our happiness. In our silly human minds, we often define happiness as comfort, but only our wise God knows that happiness never is formed in that mold. Comfort is only our idea of happiness. Happiness defined is living by the fashion King Solomon, thousands of years ago, penned.

"To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to morn and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get and a time to lose; a time to keep and a time to cast away;
A time to red and a time to sew; a time to keep silence and a time to speak;
A time to love and a time to hate; a time of war and a time of peace.
What profit hath he that worketh in that wherin he laboureth?
I have seen the travail, which God hath given to the sons of men to be exercised in it.
He hath made everything beautiful in His time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.
I know that there is no good in them, but for man to rejoice and to do good in his life.
And also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labour - it is the gift of God.
I know that whatsoever God doeth, it shall be forever: nothing can be put to it, nor anything taken from it: and God doeth it that man should fear before Him." Ecclesiastes 3:1-14

So apparently, God isn't happy about man's idea that one season is good enough for him. That's why He created change. He knew we'd never grow into the image of His Son without it.

I am standing on the threshold of change. My childhood bids me farewell just over my shoulder. The fears and reality of life are rising within my sight, just beyond this doorway. Behind me, and even where I stand, lies all of the comfort I've ever known and embraced. But somehow I've learned that I will never grow in grace within this comfort zone I love. Change stretches people in ways they feel keenly - but that's when they witness the power of growth and experience the grace of a loving God.

How can I ever change the world while insisting on dwelling in the lap of security? My eyes gaze out into the darkness of the unknown. How can I learn to rely upon the awesomeness of an almighty God without trusting Him for that which I cannot see? How can I expect Him to teach me to swim when I'm not willing to take the plunge? How can I run in the dark when I won't walk in it?

I can't. And in a way, all of life is like this. Unless my heart yearns for change with everything in me, my flesh won't be willing to let go of that ever-so-reassuring comfort, and change will be something I talk about often, yet never experience.

I am releasing the ties of my comfort inch-by-inch. It's throwing excuses at me, begging me to stay, reminding me of my failures and warning me of the unpredictable. I am afraid. But nothing ever said I wouldn't be.

This house of comfort screams at me from its every room - my social room, where it tells me that I must cling to comfort in order to remain popular. It smiles at me from the room of my ministry, where it tries to make me believe that I have been effective for Christ there, and that it's much easier to serve Him there anyway. Just when I think my temptation is over, it grabs me by the arm and whirls me around.

"Look," it tells me, "at your spiritual life."

I'm listening with a painful heart. But this time what it's telling me is true. I have, indeed, deserted the cause of Christ many times in this house of comfort. I have succumbed to the temptations of the world time and time again, and I have been indifferent to the mediocre relationship status I have towards the God who loves me.

Why, after stepping out into the unknown, I will be under the microscope of my social world, the magnifying glass of my ministry world, and the condemnation of my spiritual world which pervades it all. If I can't fly when jumping off a thirty-foot cliff, why should I fly being dropped out of an airplane at thirty-thousand feet? If I can't swim in a calm pool, why should I be able to swim in an ocean, battling against the waves that will inevitably be there? Trying to make it outside of my comfort zone and not only making it, but excelling to the glory of God - seems like a nice idea, but highly impractical. The idea has a high possibility of seriously embarrassing myself in the view of all the worlds watching me.

That's scary.

But there's something in that whole scenario that my comfort, still talking in my ear, has forgotten. It's real. It's powerful. It's happening for others. And it can happen for me.

It's the trick of the trade, the heart of the movement, and the power of the greatest secret of all. That is when a person steps out, takes the plunge, jumps the cliff, and braves the unknown in this amazing puzzle called life, that person experiences the greatest power of the universe in a very real way - regardless of the fact that this person has never been able to experience success previously.

It's this act of lowering ourselves before the great Authority of the world, the simple idea of humility in recognizing ourselves unable of doing good without the source of good - God Himself.

It's powerful. It's real. And it's available for everyone. This is part of what they call grace.

I turn for one last look at my childhood, this nursery of my comfort. My heart hesitatingly says goodbye, and in the time frame of an eternal second, my step is outside the door, and I am running, head back, heart forward, into the unknown, farther from the zone of my comfort and closer to the power of God. My eyes are blinded to the temptation of this culture and the worlds watching me by the shining light of the wonder of God. I know that only by actually running from the comfort zones of life will I actually run into the change of me, which must happen before I can change the world in any way, shape, or form.

I like summer, but do I really want it to last forever? Not really. Not at all, as a matter of fact. I desire change in my physical and spiritual life so that change can be worked in the lives of others.
My soul embraces this change - because I know the One who holds all change in His hand, the same hand that holds me.

"When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things." 1 Corinthians 13:11
"Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended, but this one thing I do, forgetting those things that are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before. I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." Philippians 3:13 & 14

Good night, Comfort, and good morning, Change. To tell you the truth, I'm not afraid. Not at all.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Every Sunrise

Someone recently asked me why I believe God exists. In fact, a lot of people have asked me that lately.

I always cringe at these kinds of questions, wondering why I feel like I need to defend a Lion when I know He is perfectly able to defend Himself. It's not my job to protect my God; it's my job to point Him out.

But how do I know that He's actually there?

I can prove the validity for reasoning there's a God. I prove it with science, history and logic. I can slam every point of every worldview that contradicts with Christianity, I can beat the person in front of me with key truths, and I can even convince my audiences that there is a God; even further than that - that He's my God: the God of the Bible.

And I can win. I can so win.

Yes, He's there. But what have I gained proclaiming that there is, in fact, a God? That He's the God I believe in? Just that. As soon as I gain my point, in a figurative way God becomes this little king sitting in a tall castle in the high heavens, laughing at His ridiculous creation - who is hopelessly out of touch with Him.

I've seen them before. The blank looks that stare at me across tables, shocked that I won a point regarding the case for a living God. But if I continue to rant on and on about the absoluteness of God and if I try to pound it into their strangely stubborn minds, I will suddenly see looks of carelessness. Because after all, who wants to be friends with a God who only exists to announce He exists?

I am a representative of the Almighty God. If I fail to communicate His greatest message to mankind, I have failed indeed.

I must tell them why it is that I have chosen to believe in Him.

I believe Him because He says He's there, I believe Him because I have found Him and Christianity to be objectionably true. But I also believe Him because I have experienced Him in a very real way. I have seen Him, first-hand, perform marvelous things in the lives of my family members and in my own life; things that are unexplainable in a reasonable, rational, human way. I know God. He is a part of my life because He loves me, and because He loved me first, I love Him. That's why.

That's God's greatest message to mankind. He loves them so immensely that He gave His Son for their eternal lives; so beautifully that He, the Creator of all, wishes to share an actual, personal relationship with His creation - mankind. This is the God I know. And that's why I believe in Him.

When Rachel and I sat down for music rehearsal one day this week, the thoughts of this song flowed from our hearts almost simultaneously. Together we penned the simple lyrics of the first song we recorded yesterday:

When this morning dawns/And the day is here/I will feel Your love/And see Your presence

I see You in every sunrise/I hear You in every whisper/Oh, they can say You are not here/But I know You are, 'cause I feel You

When they try to say/That You don't exist/My heart will protest/Because I've known You

I see You in every sunrise/I hear You in every whisper/Oh, they can say You are not here/But I know You are, 'cause I feel You

Lion and great King/How is it that I/Find this gentle love/Rising in me?

I see You in every sunrise/I hear You in every whisper/Oh, they can say You are not here/But I know You are, 'cause I feel You

Every Sunrise by Sarah and Rachel Byrum © This Bright Hour Music 2008

Monday, July 21, 2008

This Rising Song

Nothing inspires me as inspiration itself. And that usually comes in the form of a certain generation.

It was a busy, late afternoon in Washington, D.C at the Dulles airports. Hundreds of people rushed to catch their flights and shuttles. The group of people who had come from everywhere for the same reason I had sat together in a huddle in front, waiting for their ride. The van came, with the name PATRICK HENRY COLLEGE labeled on its side. The kids lined up and piled in. I sat next to the window in the middle row, pressed up against it by the amount of people on the bench. I glanced at my surroundings. Teenagers. Lots of them. Different sizes, different ages, different kids. These were to be my family - and my sister's - for the next week.

What happened next was so strange that it was normal. Everyone was nice. Everyone was friendly. Everyone was kind.

Were these teenagers?

Yes, but they were teenagers with a mission. Young people with a vision, however slight, who were gathering with a common passion. I liked it.

But the mean, nasty staff - now they were a different story. Just kidding. Whoever thought our staff was mean and nasty certainly wasn't there all the way, because our staff was truly the greatest. They might have been inexperienced compared to all of the staffs at camps who are tough, have years under their belts, and who make their campers go to bed at nine 'o clock. But ours was the coolest. We had to be in our dorms by ten, but we all knew that our counselors would let us stay up and chat in our rooms until dawn if we so pleased. Our staff was really the best. Hands down. Honest-to-goodness. No kidding. They knew that they were giving us campers far more freedom than other camps, but that was fine with us. Only we'd know that when more responsibility is given, more responsibility rises. When much is required, much is received.

I have always considered myself a person interested in politics, but I don't think anything could have prepared me for the shocking immersion into the political world I'd experience once I arrived. Right after my arrival I discovered that I was a senator from Virginia and expected to be in congress every single day. In our first session I discovered just how important parliamentary procedure actually was. I'd always thought of it as some funny joke movies sported and TV talked about, but that didn't really happen. I knew it existed, but hadn't a clue how strictly it would be upheld. After observing the firm, collected public rebuke of various congressmen and women by our chairman, I decided that for the first day or so, I'd remain quiet and learn about the proceedings. My little sister, Rachel, who had accompanied me, sat still by my side in complete awe as home schooled twelve-year-olds rose to their feet and began eloquent debates, or presented well-written bills.

We discovered that one person at camp would become camp president, and with that, we began our search for our favorite candidate. At that point there was probably about ten kids running - but that would be eliminated quite a bit by the second day - the primaries. (This was definitely, like they had said, life in the political fast lane!) But this was just the political side of camp.

Every day after breakfast, we'd head down to the Town Hall (actually the basement of our dorm) to hear from an inspiring speaker. There were so many of them - who spoke on so many different topics - that at first I felt a little flabbergasted - and I am only now gathering my thoughts in a sane manner to restate them to you. :)

Michael Smith, president and co-founder of HSLDA. Says enough. Christopher Klicka, lead attorney with HSLDA and a man with the most amazing testimonies of God's grace. Kristen Wright with Parental Rights - a group to amend the constitution to make it more explicit regarding the rights of parents.

So many people I've only heard about but longed to see in person, in other words.

Alex and Brett Harris, the incredible authors of Do Hard Things and the founders of TheRebelution.com, also spoke to us, but in a completely different way than what I'd expected. Somewhat like how they speak on their well-known Do Hard Things tour except slightly more informal, the brothers bounced off of each other in a humorous and captivating way - quietly convincing their audience of the truths they presented. They told their story. A story of two teenagers floating aimlessly along in life until they were rudely awakened with the message that has changed their life and those they have shared it with. I'd heard this story before, but somehow it seemed so much more powerful coming right from them. They're normal guys, but it's their completely abnormal message that is moving a generation to rise from lethargy and into faithfulness.

My heart rises within me as I write this, and suddenly I am wishing to once more be back in that Town Hall, sitting with all of those enthusiastic young people thinking, dreaming, planning; laughing. I don't wonder why I get tired of spending time with people who have no purpose, who despise youth, and who think the idea of doing hard things is just a joke. There is a selfish part of me that wishes my world didn't have to be filled with pessimistic people, but rather inspirational. But wait. My world is filled with inspirational people. My eyes are too often blinded to them - and by the idea that there are always more inspirational people elsewhere.

We celebrated the end of our week (or nearly the end of it) with a formal party. Glimmering gowns, perfect tuxes and a high idea of formal ran through our little camp that night. And of course, I forgot my camera. Every photograph I want from that event I'll have to mooch off of my friends.

The young man my sister and I supported was elected president - but not without a close vote. An independent party came very close to winning, much to every one's surprise. I clearly recall jumping to my feet in ecstasy. High ecstasy. And mostly because of the story that backed up why we supported who we did.

We had just jumped on our flight connection in Minneapolis for D.C.. Rachel and I were sitting together - she in an aisle seat and me by the window. We hadn't even taken off when Rachel jabbed me in the ribs and whispered, "Sarah - see that kid over there?"

I nod and look where she points. A young man of about sixteen is animatedly engaged in talking with an elderly black gentleman. "Yes, I see him," I reply.

"He's home schooled."

I gaze at my sister in amazement. She never studies people like I do. I've always considered myself an observer of people and here is my little sister informing of someone I never once observed. "Uh - how do you know?"

She smiles. "Just look at the way he's conversing with that gentleman. He has to be a home schooler."

I return her smile and settle back into my seat, gazing out my window at the wispy clouds clinging to the wing of the airplane and the sun, straining to peak through them with bright rays. I'm imagining that I'm writing. The blue sky covered us like a warm blanket...

Jam! Rachel has her elbow in my ribs again. "See! I told you he was a homeschooler. He's talking politics." A moment later, she abrubtly calls my attention to him again. "He just mentioned GenJ and Patrick Henry! Sarah - he's going!"

We're girls. We wave at him from across the aisle, thumbs up with big smiles. It didn't really matter because he didn't see us, anyway. But all that to say, we considered it a special thing that we ended up sharing the same flight there, that we were able to campaign with him, and rejoice with him when he won the presidential election that week.

Washington, DC. The very act of mentioning the name of that beautiful city sends waves of chills through me. I can think of no greater place to be than there, our nation's capital, on its great birthday. I expected great things, but came away walking on clouds.

We walked in the great footsteps of the people who lead the greatest nation in the world. We gazed at monuments, tall and splendid, who grace the sky and do beautiful justice to the sun shining down upon them. My heart both sank and rose with every step in that great city. I remember it, and embrace the feeling once more.

I had been there before, and I'm sure I'll be there again, but I'm sure I'll never quite be there as I was this time. Surrounded by laughing, enthusiastic young people - as eager to devour history as myself - I had to pinch myself at times to make sure I wasn't dreaming. In fact, at times when everyone else had walked ahead on the streets, under the sun and tall shadows, skipping and laughing, I'd stop. I'd throw my head back and let my face be kissed by the warmth of the sun, my hair blowing in the wind, and I'd embrace the moment with everything in me. I wanted it to take such a deep root in my heart that I'd never forget it, never let it go, and carry it with me forever. This is the land I love.

After a day of walking in the shadows of the past, we ended it with a long walk to the Jefferson Memorial. It began to rain, so we quickened our pace with prayers in our hearts - asking God to bless us with decent weather for the firework celebration. People everywhere blocked my vision as we struggled on, but very soon I peeped over tall heads in our group and saw the Jefferson Memorial - clear against the sky, breathtaking in architecture, glorious in story, beautiful in providence, unforgettable in sight.

Our group gathered on the steps of the great monument just as dusk was falling. The darkness settled quickly, covering our warm bodies like a blanket. And then it began to rain. At first it sprinkled, but as seconds whizzed by, it picked up speed and gained momentum, soon immersing us in a literal shower. We sat there, under the darkness, surrounded by a fast growing crowd, getting drenched by an eastern rain shower, and loving every minute of it. Would the fireworks happen? Who cared! We were having a blast sitting, laughing, joking, musing, smiling, watching - in the rain.

Regardless of the fun I felt we were having, my heart ran with thoughts. I observed the many little children wrapped to the teeth in rain ponchos or huddled underneath large umbrellas (which reminded me of the wings of a mother hen, protectively covering her chicks) sitting, watching the sky with intent, blinking little eyes, appearing as if their little minds were uttering a thousand-and-one silent prayers for the rain to stop. I grabbed the hand of my sister next to me, and we quickly offered a prayer that the rain would stop and the fireworks would be able to go on.

Minutes later, the rain stopped.

When the fireworks began, it was as if they were about to end. Exploding rays of light rushed to the sky and showered down - it seemed - upon us. In a breathless second a rocket would travel up, up, up into the darkness, and another split second and colors of impossible variety were stretching across the sky. Fingers of color, showers of sparkle; fountains of gold. The reflection of the show danced in my sister's eyes, and my heart rose to the highest peak imaginable.

I could have sat there forever. My feet in a puddle of rain and my hands tightly together on my lap, my heart took in the beauty in context of the week I'd just experienced. From the first moment when I'd been surprised at the friendliness of the people, to my first experience in mock legislation and congress, to the very first speaker who spoke to us, to the very last speaker who spoke to us, to the moment of victory in the presidential race, to this moment - this beautiful moment - when it was all coming together like the end of a fairy tale.

But I snap myself out of my drifting thoughts and glance around at my many friends, sitting under the same sky, in the same place, on the same steps, watching the same, magnificent sight. I don't know what they're thinking, but I can guess. I see laughter in one person's eyes, deep thankfulness in another's, happiness in this one's; depth in that one's.

And now I remember why I have loved this time so much. Something like a sob rises within me as I think about the lives that we - these young people - have before us. We will go home, we will live our lives, but something tells me that they'll be changed. These young people sitting here with me on these great, white steps, represent a great generation of world changers. That's what I see in their eyes collectively. It sparkles brighter than the fireworks that display it; it shimmers more gloriously than the sun itself. It's a fire, a call, a holy desire; a vision. It comes to me in the form of a sentence, and my heart, again, embraces it.

We will change the world.

It is like the melody of a beautiful song, accented by the deep harmony of belief and the orchestra of inspiration, a rising song lifted to the sky proclaiming the glory of the Most High.

Hello, world. This is my generation.