The Lists: A Monologue
I'm not as good as her. How can she do her makeup like that? How can one person have so many friends? Why am I not one of their friends? I'm not good enough. I'm not pretty enough, funny enough, photogenic... the list in my head goes on and on.
I open social media and ideas pop up that have never popped up before. Maybe I should 'dm' someone I like and see what happens. I'll just add all these people and maybe they'll add me back and I'll post a lot, yeah, I'll post all of my really good pictures. I'll post like I'm doing something really fun... the list in my head goes on and on.
I don't want to go anywhere. I don't want to do anything. I want to stay in bed. I don't want to talk to my friends. I feel lonely, angry...the list in my head goes on and on.
But one day, instead of a comma in my head, there was a period. Someone reached in and stopped my hand from drawing a comma and made me mark a dot instead.
The list in my head doesn't go on and on. The list in my head was no longer written in pen, but in pencil. I began erasing the list until one day, the list was no longer there.
I started making a new list. But before my hand would write, it needed to find the intervention.
The intervention. My mind wandered...hmm...God, is it You? How could it be You? I hated You. I turned from You. I wanted anything but You. Is it really...You?
Yes. I can feel You again. I can almost feel Your touch. Oh, thank You, thank You, thank You.
I am a Child of God. I am Christ's ambassador. I am completely forgiven. I am tenderly loved by God. I am Christ's friend. I am a child of the light. I am a citizen of heaven.
The list in my heart goes on and on.
You should read these.
I love a good novel like most people love Netflix. There's something about the ability of an author to transport you into another existence using only some symbols on a page. Books are my escape into other worlds: worlds of adventure, heroism, social movement, the battle between good and evil, unspoken truths, romance, fantasy, spiritual encounters, animals that talk, and animals that walk.
Here are a few of my favorites, and a little bit about why I love them. If you ever get the chance, pick one up. You'll be glad you did!
1. Peace Like a River by Leif Enger
This is a unique story about a family in the midst of spiritual warfare. I love the vivid, powerful scenes this book has to offer. They include a father walking on air as he's lost in prayer, a wrestling match with God, food that miraculously keeps appearing, and a boy that should've died but comes back to life. The writing makes it seem like an actual account of events, and made me want to experience that same indisputable power of God in my own life. I don't reread books, but I read this one FOUR times.
2. The Space Trilogy by C.S. Lewis
As you'll soon find out, I'm a HUGE C.S. Lewis fan. His uncanny ability to make plain all the complex ideas of faith and theology draws me back to his books every time. This trilogy can actually be read separately or out of order, but I wanted to include them as one book (so I could fit in the others hehe). Out of The Silent Planet is about a man who inexplicably finds himself aboard a (space)ship headed for Malacandra (Mars), stops two scientists from exploiting their findings, and meets an archangel of God. Perelandra finds the same man sent on a mission to Perelandra (Venus), where he wrestles Satan and saves a young planet from another Fall into sin. Lastly, That Hideous Strength takes place on Earth where the archangel Satan has dominion and spiritual battle is raging. All three books, though fantastical, changed my perspective on spiritual warfare and our mission on Earth. We really are foreigners living in a battle field, but the War is won already.
3. Almost Heaven by Chris Fabry (author of War Room)
This is one of those stories that is told from two perspectives. In this case, one of the narrators is the main character's guardian angel ('nuff said). It's very much like Peace Like a River in its small-town tone and way of storytelling. However, this book presents a socially impaired man living in the hills of West Virginia who has a knack for playing the mandolin. What I love about this story is that it is plain and every-day on the surface, but it's really a series of battles, with true identity winning over social status, strength over temptation, and truth over deception.
4. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
Another book that is really seven books, but that would be just too much for one post:) This series epitomizes the childlike heart of C.S. Lewis: talking animals, medieval tradition, kings, queens, knights, and magic. It also, of course, sticks with heavenly themes, the whole Narnian story retelling the story of Christ. The King of the Jews is portrayed as Aslan, the king of beasts, and dies only to come alive again, while the Second Coming is accounted in The Last Battle. I especially love how anyone can relate to the Pevensie children, Peter trying to do his best to lead as High King, Susan being gentle, but so logical she was stubborn, Edmund being intelligent, but also mischievous, and little Lucy being so valiant, yet also doubtful.
I shared a little bit about why I chose this verse in About Me, but I wanted to tell you some more of the story:
This verse found its way to me my junior year of high school. That spring was a rough year for my family for lots of reasons, and hard for me because I was busier than I had ever been (little did I know haha, wish I had that much time now!) I was involved in One Act, Academic UIL, my youth group's worship team, softball, concert band, as well as being the president of my class and helping to organize prom that year. It was a lot.
Well, I also participated in Bible Drill with our church, and one of the passages we had to memorize was Psalm 139:1-8. And wow, did it speak to me:
"Lord You have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I stand up;
You understand my thoughts from far away.
You observe my travels and my rest;
You are aware of all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue,
You know all about it, Lord.
You have encircled me;
You have placed Your hand on me.
This extraordinary knowledge is beyond me.
It is lofty; I am unable to reach it.
Where can I go to escape Your Spirit?
Where can I flee from Your presence?
If I go up to heaven, You are there,
If I make my bed in Sheol, You are there.
If I take up the wings of dawn,
Or dwell at the end of the sea,
Even there Your hand will lead me,
Your right hand will hold onto me."
I don't think I'll ever stop needing to hear this truth. I need it every moment.
God is in it until the end. When He says He will, He does, when He says He has, He did. When He says His right hand will hold on to me, He means it. When He says He has placed His hand on me, I know that truly, He has. When He says He has encircled me, surely He is all around me. When He says He knows me, He really does know me.
Because of these truths I can rest knowing that no matter where I am, no matter how I feel, He is constant. He holds onto me, His hand is over me, He is all around me, He knows me.
That phrase used to scare me, and it still does in a healthy way. But I used to think, oh no, He knows everything. Now I think, praise God, He knows everything! And loves. me. still.
I am free. That's what this passage reminds me, and that's why I've made it the heart of this little blog. In the hand of the Father, I am free to love and be loved, free to be fully myself now that I'm found in Him, free to give and to receive, free to feel emotions - because He is my Rock.
And should I find myself even at the end of the sea, He will hold fast.
I know it's autumn when the house is quiet.
It probably has something to do with the fact that our AC units are no longer in use (hehe).
But maybe it's the sound of the land falling asleep, laying its limbs down into winter slumber. Maybe its inhabitants are likewise finding their cozy beds even in an eerily still and blissfully silent landscape.
And this is, essentially, what happens to all of us, too. We start to lag at work and school because we really just want to make cocoa and curl up with a good read, or huddle in a blanket by a campfire and watch the stars burn.
But somehow, this sleepy season also makes me come alive. The crisp mornings rouse me before the sun is up and long, six o'clock shadows bid me stay outside a little longer. The colder and wetter and windier it becomes, the more I long to run or hike or drive with the windows down and drink in the clean air. Sure, being cozy at home entices me, but even further I desire to gather, to share my home, to be festive and merry and making cookies.
My prayer is that this carries over into my life. It's so easy to become sleepy in this season of school, work, homework, sleep (sometimes), school, work, and more homework. But I don't want to close my eyes to opportunities and just feel my way, blindly following the voices around me. It's easy to become busy and slowly allow apathy to affect my relationships, my walk with God, and even my grades. But this isn't the time to hibernate - this is a time to be fully awake and 100% present. There's so much happening and so many changes, and I've got to be proactive or I might lose my way. Winter's on its way too, and there's no way to know what it brings. It's time to reap the harvest, to pursue all the good things, so when winter comes, I'm well-fed and ready.
And when you're well-fed, that's when the real peace, the real stillness, comes. You can face the biting cold because you know there's a living fire roaring inside. You can run through a rainstorm knowing that it will bring abundant life. You can watch the setting sun slant through the trees knowing that it will rise again.
"Return to your rest, my soul, for the Lord has been good to you. For you, Lord, rescued me from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling. I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living." Psalm 116:7-9
I'm learning very quickly that writing a blog takes vulnerability.
C.S. Lewis said,
"To love at all is to be vulnerable."
So, take this as an act of love - I'm loving you by sharing my stories and things I've learned in hopes that they will encourage you and enable you to grow with me.
I'm about to be very vulnerable and share something that people will probably think is silly, or nerdy, or weird.
In high school, I had an English teacher that focused every spring semester on poetry. The whole semester we had up to four poems due every week. They ranged from acrostics to limericks to nonets to villanelles. Well, in that first long semester of forced creativity, I learned that I love to write poetry. I learned the beauty in words, and literary tools - things like onomatopoeia and alliteration. It turns out that I had always used those things but never knew how to really structure them into poetry.
I kept all my poems from those couple of years (only because we were graded on them at the end of the year haha) and sometimes I look back at them and wish I still wrote. But just as with artwork, good writing demands structure and purpose (other than a grade). So, I'm starting a poetry column. It may be silly, it's definitely nerdy, and probably weird, but that's okay. I love you, so here's a little bit of myself.
Written the spring semester of my high school senior year:
All the things I've never done
Stack up, add up, lean over
One on top of another,
The tallest peering from the tower.
How long will it take
To get where I'm going?
As I reach one with my right hand,
My left shoves another
Into the bottom of the stack -
Until all is forgotten, all but
The tallest still laughing from the tower.
On tippy toes, arm stretched up,
It's finally in my grasp.
And taking a closer look
Way up in the clouds,
It's not what I thought,
That distant thing,
The tallest falling from the tower,
Falling, falling -
All the things I've never done.
My response today:
The person who I am becoming
Looks up, stands up, runs farther -
It's in the valley where I first was lifted.
In the dry place, oh how the river ran!
In my death that breath came easy.
How is it that grace
Is upon grace?
Little did I know my Maker,
My heart-taker, is
The One without another
Made me who I am.
And I, not without some falling,
Climb higher still and
Not with empty purpose,
Reach for towers tall, above all
He's not Who I thought,
And good thing, too.
The Biggest, the Good, holds me, always
The person who I am becoming.
My dreams come in sunny images.
Pastel flowers and white tulle. Denim jackets, tin coffee cups, cloudy breaths in pine tree places. Pink and blue crocheted blankets and a swaying mobile. Open windows, clean table tops, jars of paintbrushes. Worn duffel bags, stamped passports.
And this week, all of that seemed very far away. To sum things up, (I'm ashamed to say I've put a lot of thought into the list of terribles that occurred this week) my car's engine overheated and started smoking, I went phoneless for 48 hours, got sick, consequently missed a day of work, and had an emotionally rough patch with some family stuff.
But hey, one of my midterm exams was a surprise open-book.
Really, though, I was struggling. I just wanted to quit everything, stay home and hide.
Today I watched one of my dearest mentors/best friend receive one of her biggest dreams. And as it was unfolding I was overjoyed. I was in awe.
But I was also a little jealous. Not the kind of jealous that is mean and green and ugly. This was the kind that longs and grieves and asks why.
I felt this arise inside of me and knew that it wasn't new. This anxiety for the future has always been there, always questioning my choices and pressing me to overthink my every action. Is this right for me? What if I choose wrong? What if this changes the whole course of my life? What if I miss out on my only opportunity? What if this isn't the right major? Am I going to the right school? Should I try to be friends with her? Should I let myself like him? And the questions go on, ever dominating my mind and blockading my joy.
How did she get there and what do I do to get there? was the prominent thought today. And as I've dwelt on it all day, and not for the first time, I realized something.
I get to go to my dream school. And at that school, every day, I get to see my best friends -> my I-would-die-for-you-I-ugly-cry-with-you-brother-sister-friends. I witness amazing Christian leadership. I start class in communal prayer.
If I had been told a year ago that I'd be going to this school, I would've asked how? And now, honestly, I still ask that question.
Perhaps before asking how all those impossible dreams are going to happen, I should ask how on earth I am where I am today. Then I would see that the dreams I dared to dream not so long ago are very present, and not so very impossible.
God is faithful. And it is so beautiful how He sometimes chooses to work in the gradual, unnoticeable everyday things in order to reveal the spectacular.