Saturday, August 27, 2016

Mmm Trees


I climbed a tree today. I do this sometimes because I like the change of perspective and the quiet moments it affords me. Up in the tree, there is this desire to stay in one place, because it took me some time to find a place to sit in its branches, and it's not so easy to climb back down.

Quiet moments are hard to find sometimes. The best ones are out in nature, where sunshine and fresh air can rejuvenate your body and soul. I recommend finding a friendly tree. One whose branches hang low to the ground, inviting you to try your strength and pull yourself up. (just don't be afraid of the bugs)

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Preparing for Unpreparedness

Yesterday I had the privilege of attending yet another matriculation convocation at my university. This ceremony welcomes the first year students with a few concise speeches and grandiose organ music before the new faces brave their first classes in just a few short days. I am so excited to get to know the newest members of our community, and to hopefully help them thrive as they experience all the things that come with the first year of college.

One thing stood out to me, though, in a speaker's brief words. He told the students that they have arrived to campus "with all the tools they need to be successful, fully prepared for the challenges ahead." And as I sat facing those students, I wanted to shake my head. To tell them that this speaker had over-exaggerated their preparedness, and that if they believed him, their failures might be shocking and difficult to deal with.

These students have arrived with all the tools they need to be successful. That part of his speech is not wrong. We have all been shaped by our experiences. This makes us able to withstand a multitude of obstacles that we may never have prepared for. But the key is in the unpreparedness. The tools for the journey can be found within your being, but I daresay there are parts of you you haven't discovered yet. Skills you haven't made ready for what you are about to face. To expect complete preparedness may limit what we are willing to achieve.

So to the student starting their first year of college, or for anyone else who is embarking on a new part of their life's journey, I want to say this:

You are unprepared for what lies ahead in ways you cannot fathom at this moment in your life. Do not expect to have a solution ready for every obstacle you are going to face. Classes might demand more of you than you are ready to give. Friendships will challenge you in new ways as you come closer to learning who you are. Some days you might experience emotions more deeply than you've ever felt before. Feeling lost is ok. Nobody can ever know yourself like you can, and every time you face something that seems over your head, you expand your understanding of yourself. Embrace the opportunity to learn more about who you can be.

You are going to fail. Sometimes miserably, and sometimes just enough to remind you that you need to try a little harder. If you treat them right, your failures will be your biggest successes. Don't think that if you fail it was just because you should have been more prepared. You are not prepared. At least not for everything. But that is the only way we learn-- by pushing the boundaries of what we think we are capable of, or "prepared for," and letting ourselves fall, even if it hurts. 

The only thing you should feel prepared for is unpreparedness. Try to embrace the possibility that at this moment in time, you aren't quite up to some of the challenges you are going to face. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't try your darnedest to overcome that gap between what you are capable of now and what you can be capable of someday. 

Be brave. Try new things. Step outside your comfort zone. And help each other up when you've fallen down. 

Thursday, August 11, 2016

High Ropes

I recently had the chance to do a high ropes course with a group of students from my university. Basically, we were all strapped in to harnesses and there was rock wall climbing and then a series of challenges that involved crossing suspended platforms and walking on ropes while hanging a good distance above the ground.

I agreed to be on the belay team for the first part--which meant that while people were climbing the rock wall, I was helping hold the rope down on the ground so we could all lower the climber and make sure they were safe. I didn't realize that being on the belay team put me right in line to be next to climb the terrifying rock wall. But when my time came, I handed over my place on the belay team and climbed. I'm honestly just trying not to picture what my backside looked like as I awkwardly scaled the wall.

It was really rewarding to climb the wall, and though I was shaking with adrenaline when I returned to solid ground, I was glad I did it. And guess what? Because I was one of the first to climb, I got to be one of the first to go up up up the stairs to do the challenge course with the suspended platforms that I mentioned earlier.

As my friends and I trudged up the stairs, I said, "Dang, we just said yes to one thing and now we are all the way up here!"

Terrified out of our minds of the height and the prospect of completing the course, we all just kind of stood there and said how we wanted to go back down. When we started the day, we hadn't said yes to being at the top of the challenge course. We had said yes to being on the belay team. And now we were about to push the edges of our comfort zone even further.

We all completed the challenges, even though we all did that thing where we looked out to where we'd have to step and yelled "oh crap!!" And I honestly can say that making myself do that made me feel empowered.

But I didn't immediately agree to doing the challenge course. I didn't jump headfirst into pushing myself to my limit. I know this whole challenge course thing sounds trivial, but I promise you if you experienced it you would know how difficult it is, regardless of all the safeguards. But I didn't just jump in. I said yes to one thing: being on the belay team. And then yes to climbing the wall, but only when my chance came to answer.

And maybe some things in life ask you to make great leaps of faith and pray for the best, but most of the time, you are faced with small everyday decisions that ask you to give a little of yourself at a time. You say yes, your journey moves forward, and day after day you are asked the question, "will you?" and you have to decide. One answer at a time.

Those tiny steps require faith and trust. They require faith in God and trust in your prayer life. God is working in your life. He needs you somewhere. And while it's easy to worry about HUGE things in your life that you may someday be asked to do or need to decide on, God is walking you through this thing one "yes" at a time.

It's important to let life happen. One step, one yes, one moment in prayer trusting God, all of these one time things are what lead you to a summit. I don't know about you, but I spend way too much time looking at where I will be one thousand decisions from now. It is reassuring to know that NOW matters. My attitude, my faith, my ability to take each opportunity for its immediate worth, will all get me where I am meant to be.

We're all searching for peace in some form. I think this is where we can find some.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Stargazing (I live in extended metaphor)

The other night, my family decided to go out and look at the stars. So we got into our van and headed out past the touch of streetlights, down long stretches of shadowy gravel road so that we could see stars uninhibited by the artificial brightness of the city.

It is amazing how loud the quietness of nighttime is. Staring up at the stars, you can almost feel your own blood rushing in your veins, making a terrible, dissonant music with the songs of crickets and wind snapping in the trees. We didn't spend long craning our necks toward the sky, but being out there in the oppressive darkness made me glad I was with my family. The stars would be a cold, distant comfort if I were to be wandering the earth alone under nightfall.

And you know what? Sometimes life feels like that: loneliness in the deepest nighttime. Sometimes life feels like the darkness of the night sky will never be lifted; even street lights are a poor excuse for the sun's rays. More than other times, right now I feel a little-too-aware of the not-so-daytime things in my life. There's just a lot of change happening, a lot of things to try not to worry about. But it's ok. Even when the sun is gone, there's still enough light in the sky to remind me that I'm not alone.

And here's the thing. The distant stars are always shining, regardless of the time of day here on earth, piercing darkness from millions of miles away. And sometimes you have to chase the darkest parts of the earth to even see them, those tiny steadfast lights that twinkle on the deep blue canvas. It's ok to face the darkness sometimes. God placed the stars there for you. They can guide you home. They can remind you that there is a God whose love for you is more infinite than the stars He calls by name. It doesn't mean it will always feel this way. The night is never easy. But without it, no stars. I think that's meant to mean something.


Wednesday, July 27, 2016

What you need to know

So much of life is uncertain. The regularity of my posts is enough to cause distrust among anyone who faithfully reads the words I offer here. 

But like the date of my next post, life is uncertain. Life is messy. Life is dark and light and grays all mixed up together and stretched out over eons. Some of the most beautiful moments in life are the ones where nothing is certain. Those moments where some impossible obstacle moves into your path and you are forced to realize that you are stronger than you always thought you were.

In those moments where you are forced to examine your worth and your strength, the light from the sky feels just a little brighter. Maybe that's because you need it more. Maybe that's because hope is a strange thing that only really manifests in time of need. Regardless, your heart finds something to cling to in those dark times. You discover confidence you never knew you had, and while it may hurt, you are grateful for the chance to experience this strange new part of yourself that is determined to survive. 

I get overly sentimental about everything in life. Maybe the darkness is just darkness. Maybe whatever aches at your heart is a pointless, dull pain that simply needs to be healed. Maybe that is all there is to it. You move from dark to light to grey to shades in between and that's just what life does. Nothing more.

But I don't believe that. Somewhere in the darkness is where we strive to find a reason to seek out the light. The obstacles that make their way into your heart can either break you or give you a reason to fight. In them you can find proof that your body is strong, that your heart may be soft but it also can love with a blazing intensity. 

Friends, don't let the darkness tell you that there is no greater meaning to your suffering. Don't let hope become a frivolity. Cling to your love. Cling to God. Let yourself be reminded of why this life is so difficult, but so so worth it. Pain can be a ceaseless wave. I have felt it. I feel it so deeply sometimes. But love is deeper. God is stronger. Your heart was made to withstand much more than you've ever believed is possible. Do not forget your fearlessness. Do not forget your hope.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Summer Sunset

Summer is seeping through the windows of my house tonight. It is hot and gets under my skin, and I wrote this poem to forget about how gosh darned warm it is in my bedroom. Enjoy!


"Summer Sunset"


The sun is hot hot hot

even when it's not

above the horizon.

I keep my eyes on 

the way the sky quiets 

and wish I could try it--

the soft transformation

from pink and red elation

to the cool blue and green

that starts the nighttime scene.



Sunday, May 22, 2016

"Allergies"


I sit and let my nose trickle
and it tickles
oh it does so tickle
in my nose
and down my throat

and yes 
the flowers smelled good
and the dog was soft

but oh the flowers tickled
my fingertips much more kindly

and the dog’s kisses 
were not quite so aggressive

as this tickle that persists
like a fickle cold— 

not quite sneezing
not quite breathing 
through my nostrils

but the sky was blue
and the grass so fragrant
and so I think tomorrow, 
tonight will be worth it,

because sunshine makes 
me forget the sneezing

and the tickles don’t trickle
to my nose until the day is done
and flowers have been sniffed
and dogs have been kissed.