Wednesday, February 19, 2014

This Is About Discipline, Dollface.

And just like that, it's two months into 2014.

I poured champagne, shared my best moment of 2013 with my new mister and two of our closest friends, we clinked our glasses and let out a few excited cheers... and then it was a new year. 

I didn't sit down as 2013 drew to a close, pen determinedly in hand, ready to map out how I didn't want 2014 to look with a list of this-year-I'm-going-to-starts and this-year-I'm-going-to-quits and this-year-I'm-going-to-do-betters. You don't need the calendar to change to do that - maybe it's harsh to say, but I think mediocre lives are marked by the heaviness of complacency. Of being just fine with the way things are.
And friends, I'm not interested in being boring. In living a mediocre life. In blending in.

I'm interested in excellence.
In standing out so brightly that people question how the heck I do it.
In facing challenges with a bravado that's rooted in the practice of digging my heels in, of gritting my teeth and committing to every step and not relenting until I've done the best I can do, until I've given the fullest I can give.

That's serious stuff. And it's about more than just wanting to have a better new year than the old one. There's no denying that 2013 was probably my most difficult, challenging year yet - the pages of my weeping journals prove it with an almost embarrassing honesty. But what I'm talking about is so much more than just wanting to say that I grew a little, that I learned my lesson, that I'm making the most or rising above.

This is about stepping into this new season of my life and deciding what kind of person I want to be. 

There are a lot of people walking around - I'm looking around my college campus where I'm sitting and writing this and I'm seeing hundreds of them - who don't know who they want to be. A year ago, I was one of them. I sat right where I was and relied on other people to decide how I was going to feel and waited on dreams that were just easy enough, just cookie-cutter enough, not to require a bit of gut-wrenching courage. I let my passions sit deep in my belly, dormant until I grew enough to gather up the boldness to call them out and decide that I was brave enough to own them.

It's the plight of people who haven't been shaken up a bit by hands bigger than our own perception of our problems, who haven't been forced to realize that
life isn't comfortable.
It just ain't, dollface.
People leave you. People fail you. Money comes and goes even quicker, and in a heart that's open to Jesus-sized adventures, a lot of times you have to give things up. Things that maybe you really thought you wanted, things that it feels like unraveling the very fabric of who you are to let go of.

But that's so, so good. Because going through all of those things, and fighting tooth and nail to have the faith to trust in my great big God all the while, was like life's way of holding up a big, heavy, showy looking glass in front of me. And instead of my reflection between the edges of a gilded, ornate frame, I saw all the things I knew were meant for me instead.

Love. Adventure. Challenge. Success. Victory.
Big stuff.

And in the sifting and the sorting and the shoving things around to make room for what I needed to hold on to, one of the things left in my hands at the end of my season of stillness was a conviction.

A conviction to be disciplined.
To be diligent and faithful and committed to everything I sink my hands into. To let myself be wrapped up in where I am and really be IN it - none of this half in, half out business. None of this fear of making the decision to stay, or to open my hands and go.
To do everything I do with all that it takes to do it well.

And it's practical, guys. It's not just about the New-Years-Resolution-attitude of newbiggerbetterskinnierwealthierhappier.

It's about deciding who I want to be. And committing to a quest of really being that person.

And for me, it does look like prioritizing health. And being responsible with my finances. And investing in my relationships. But it's a heart thing. A deep-down, hearty, dig-my-heels-in kind of decision about who. I. am. Not about my behavior, or about what people would say about me if I held up a picture frame to my face and asked what I looked like to them. It's about who I am.

And so far, it's taking more resolution than any three-day-a-week gym plan ever has.

What kind of person do you want to be? 

"Whatever you do, work at with all your heart, as working for the Lord and not for man." - Colossians 3:23

Monday, November 11, 2013

A Big Dare (and a bunch of Ryanhood lyrics)

It's officially, finally, fall
(even though, as I predicted, we're having our Indian summer - it's almost two weeks into November and it's still 80 degrees outside). 

For a lot of people, the changing weather means adjusted wardrobes and expanded Starbucks (red cups!) budgets, saving for gifts and decorating for the holidays and letting the coziness of autumn leak in through the cracks around our doors as we finally turn off the air conditioning and throw the windows open wide. 

I love those things about fall, to be sure; pretty scarves, really great boots that you got a ridiculously good deal on, white mochas, seasonal candles from Bath and Body Works - they're some of my favorite things.
And if you read my last post, I wrote that I felt like all summer I had been moving, going, getting through. For months and months, I went through hard thing after hard thing - it was a relentless barrage of one emotional shock after another. It felt like I had to devote all the energy I had just to reminding myself that this too shall pass the same way that the sun goes down every night and comes up every morning, with resiliency and consistency and maybe even a little bravado. I prayed for the strength to just get to the next day because this one was too sad, too hard, too less than what I wanted

Even though that sounds SO dramatic, it was where I was at. And all things considered, I feel like I handled my hard season pretty darn well, although that's totally by the grace of God - that's the only reason that I could keep telling myself that even though it felt like the end of the world, it wasn't.

But now, I feel like my pushing, pressing, dragging along, getting through days are morphing into something different. I feel a new stillness, the way it feels after you've run a few miles and you finally have to stop to take a break, when you rest your hands on your knees and hang your head to breathe and all you can hear are the pounding of your heart in your ears and your breath as it fills your lungs with cold, delicious air and the quiet that's everywhere else around you. 

The words I've put to it in my heart are so simple:

Be where you are.

For a long time, I didn't want to do that. I adamantly refused, gave God a resolute I can't, and asked for anything that would make the time pass more quickly. Which happened, for the most part - I look back at the past 8 or 9 months and marvel at how fast it went. I look back at it with complete relief: relief that the painful parts went by so quickly, relief that I had such great people to walk through them with me, relief that they were full of lessons and not just empty punches to the gut, relief that somehow God helped me learn those lessons even though I was in such a hurry to get to the next, less hard part. 

And I did get to the next part. Time passed, the seasons changed, and here I am.
There are a lot of things in my life that aren't where I had pictured them being at this point in my journey. Aren't we all guilty of that, though? We build castles in our skies and make plans and dream dreams and pin to our Pinterest boards, thinking that we know best when really, God has been whispering something totally different to us (to me) all along:

You don't even know how beautiful the things I have in store for you are. 

It's like a challenge - like God is saying Go ahead. I dare you to trust me in this season. 

Which has been a real task! It's taking a lot of faith to just be where I am, to soak up everything that's happening in my life right here. There are so many things that I want to just happen, already! I want to just start the next chapter of my life.

But what I'm learning is that if you're always waiting and watching for the next big thing, opportunity, relationship, door to walk through - you miss the beauty in between the lines of where you are right now. My favorite band, Ryanhood, says it so well in one of their newest songs, called Lover's Lament:

If I say I’ll be happy when
Do I keep myself unhappy til then?
And if I don’t like this moment how will I like the next?
Probably gonna be, probably gonna feel a lot like this

And I relate so much to these words! I spend so much time in the past, "wishing I could have back what I had," or in the future, dreaming up the days where my current ambitions will be realized. But I'm being constantly reminded that the pages of the book of my life aren't blank right now! I'm filling them up with the script of learning how to be a confident, mature, disciplined, educated, developed woman. I'm filling them up with heartfelt conversations over cups of Gold Rush tea from the Raging Sage - I look back over the past almost-year of my life and I see them tumbling through those pages like movements in a symphony. I'm filling them up with passion expressed in the forms of sub-par guitar playing, honest-to-blog writing, and enthusiastic cheers at UofA football and basketball games. I'm filling them up with growth and development and relationship, and that's so beautiful.

There's much to be accomplished in this life - that's something to be recognized and appreciated, to be sure.
Dream big dreams - do it! Don't limit yourself to what you think is possible. I believe that God is in the business of defeating the odds and making big things happen - and if you believe in that too, it's crazy what you can see happen in your life.
But while you're on the road to getting to where you're dreaming of being, don't forget to look around along the way. And if, every so often, you have to step off the full-speed-ahead path to just sit, take a rest, and listen, do that too. And enjoy every blessed, colorful second of it - breathe every ounce of that fresh air in, because I'm learning that these quiet, still seasons can teach you a lot. Sometimes even more than when you're plowing pedal-to-the-metal forward into your future.

Because it's in these still, simple, stay-put seasons that you learn discipline. Trust. Hope. Patience. Diligence.
It's in these stay-put seasons that you learn to appreciate the small prizes that you can find in between the boisterous triumphs that come in seasons of movement.

And even though I will gladly appreciate when things start rolling heavily forward again, I'm learning to appreciate this stillness. This sense of upward (instead of forward) growth. This time of looking around me and soaking up all the goodness that I have right now.

What kind of season are you in?

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Start Somewhere

So let's talk about how Ryanhood is coming out with a new album. It's basically the best news ever. 

You should click this link, An Open Letter To Friends of Ryanhood, to pre-order the new album, Start Somewhere. And then, if you live in Tucson, you should go to their show at the Rialto on November 2 where it will be released (which I happen to be selling tickets for - leave a comment if you want one!). 

It's not just good music. It's their heart, and it's good for the soul.

Not a sponsored post, ya'll. I just really love these guys.

Friday, October 11, 2013

When the Weather Changes

As I walk around campus today, there is a crisp breeze weaving itself between the buildings and through the union, rippling the leaves on the trees and whistling as it wraps around students heading to their classes. There is a chill on my skin, and all day I've been wishing that I had worn something just a little thicker than this tank top. 

Fall is coming. 
I can say with absolute certainty that there will be an indian summer and, for a few more days (let's be honest - it'll probably be weeks), I'll be back to shorts and despising having to walk around outside. 

But there's something in the air. Girls have already broken out scarves and boots, and all around I see people drinking their hot Starbucks drinks and relishing the warmth of the cups in their hands as this lovely breeze curls around them. 

It's an expectancy. 
For months and months, we've been sweating and swearing and trying to fend off heat stroke and cringing when the electricity bill arrives but resigning ourselves to it because you either pay it or pass out from the heat - come on guys, it's Tucson. 

But now, it's October. As the ripples of the wind dance through the air, it's almost like I can hear a soft whisper saying "I've been waiting for you."

Because all summer, I've been moving. I've been pushing forward and pressing on and trying to get through. Trying to get through the hurt and the healing and the learning and the growing - man, has it been a hard year. 

I've always associated the summertime with falling in love - even when I was in middle school, I would read Sarah Dessen novels about sixteen year olds and their summer adventures of finding love and to me, that's always what the summer meant. And then I really did fall in love in the summertime, and I spent the next two years falling in love over and over again, giving my heart away to a person and to dreams and to passions and to desires. 

And then this year, I spent the summer trying to fall out of love. Which was painful and a lot of hard work and, for a lot of reasons, seemed totally wrong.
I've lived my entire life believing that you should fall in love as much as you can, with as many people and things and places and passions as you can. Believing that that was how you found joy and purpose and wholeness in life, that love is the only thing that matters. 

But what I'm learning now, now that summer is ending and autumn is starting to peek ever-so-shyly around the corner, is that I was wrong.

You give your heart away to the things you fall in love with - to the people, to the things, to the thoughts, to the dreams; they all take a little piece of you with them because really, you give yourself to them.

I've given my heart away to a lot of things. To a lot of people. And I've been broken by almost all of them. Some people have taken pieces of my heart and completely destroyed them.
But Jesus is gentle, and gracious, and like that song goes that everyone in the entire Christian culture knows - His love never fails.

So as pumpkin-spice-everything and brown knee-high boots are taking over my campus, I'm learning how to let Jesus take over my heart. How to be more in love with Jesus than anything - or ANYONE - else. How to make Jesus my only choice.

Sometimes it looks as simple as not saying anything when someone annoys me during the day - or not gossiping about it with my roommates when I come home. Sometimes it looks as complicated as choosing, that day, to forgive the person who hurt me more than anyone else ever has. Sometimes it's as short and sweet as praying for someone that it hurts me to think about.

It's complicated. And messy. And not easy to define.
 But it's walking out "being a Christian" - for real.

I don't know about you, but I'm so thankful that the seasons change.

"Whoever finds his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." - Matthew 10:39

Monday, September 23, 2013

The View From Here, and Forgiveness

As promised, I've got a post coming up about life as of late, but today I just wanted to share a little snippet of how I'm feeling right now.

This morning, I had to take my poor kitten to the vet because he's getting declawed, so I skipped my first class, meaning my morning was free from 6:30 when I woke up until 9:30 when I had to leave for my second class.

And the weather is absolutely beautiful today - when I got back from dropping Bingley off at the vet's office, it was 67 degrees. SIXTY SEVEN DEGREES!!! 

I can't even remember the last time I walked outside without feeling like I was going to die of heat stroke. There was no way I was letting that go without soaking as much of it up as I could (the high today is supposed to be 91, I think). 

So after a quick trip to my favorite coffee shop, the Raging Sage, and a couple of run-ins with some lovely friends, I took a chair out to our (rather pathetic) patio (but a patio nonetheless!) and had my quiet time. Completely randomly, I ended up reading in the Psalms and in Luke about forgiveness, a concept that I have been tenaciously wrestling to apply in my life lately. Fittingly, my devotion was about living in the fullest potential of this moment... and in all of the verses and the words and the teaching that I was reading, I just felt peace. And quiet. And the joy in just being still, sitting on my patio with a great view of the parking lot, listening to my roommates shuffle around in our wonderful little apartment getting ready for the day. 

And I felt so thankful. Thankful for my roommates, for our apartment, for the beautiful weather, for my friends and family and community and, oddly, for this season of my life. Thankful that I can tangibly see the way that God has been working in my life, refining my character, healing my heart. 
Thankful that when I read about the biblical and practical nature of forgiveness this morning, my thoughts weren't 

How am I ever going to be able to do that?

like they have been so much lately; instead, they were 

God, thank you so much for teaching me about the way that you forgave me and continue to forgive me every day, so that I can forgive because of you. 

Because what I have learned lately is that forgiveness is hard. When someone wrongs me, I don't want to give them a free pass, turn the other cheek, accept them with unrelenting grace - I want justice! I want them to admit they were wrong, to apologize, to make things right!

But that's not how it works. God's forgiveness for us - for our sins, for our un-Christian thoughts, for the swear word that slipped out - is always available. It's complete, it's whole, it's unconditional. We don't have to do anything to earn the forgiveness - it's there, offered freely, and all we have to do is accept it. If we met up with God for coffee one day, and said "God, I'm so sorry for what I did, I know I don't deserve your forgiveness but -", he would probably just wave his hand casually through the air and say "You don't have to explain. You have nothing to apologize for. I love you, and I forgive you. It's done."

How ridiculous is that? I could probably list off 500 offenses that I make against God every single day. And he forgives me unconditionally, unhesitatingly, every single time.

And in knowing that, how could I not be forgiving too?

Not that it's easy. Quite the opposite - like I said, forgiveness is hard. It's in our human nature to want to feel vindicated. But Luke 17:4 says "Even if a person wrongs you seven times a day and each time turns again and asks forgiveness, you must forgive." When I first read that verse, I thought Oh, but it says you must forgive them if they ask for forgiveness. And I think it seems kind of unnatural to forgive someone if they don't ask forgiveness, if they don't even feel sorry for what they did or how they hurt you. But the Jesus model of forgiveness shows us that forgiveness is there, available to us if we ask for it or not. It's not an action, or a benevolent string of words you say to someone to make them feel better - forgiveness is a matter of the heart.

And sitting on my porch this morning, soaking up the beauty of a new day, I felt a new resolve in my heart to make it a reality in my life. To walk it out. For the first time, I felt confident that I could say with honesty I forgive you, if I was ever given the opportunity. I felt the victory of OVERCOMING

And that's my view from here. 
What does your view look like?

Tender mercies, new each morning
Finding life in You
The sun is rising, the Son has risen
Making all things new

You make all things, You make all things, You make all things new

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Rush Week, and a Bit of Reflecting

This week, I walked through campus for the first time all summer. 
(Which is interesting, considering that I work on campus... I just stayed in my office building and around the periphery.) 

And oddly, it was a great feeling. 

Usually, at the start of a new semester I'm always annoyed with the hoards of students that come flooding in from summer break and crowd up the student union. I dread starting classes and the overwhelming busyness that has characterized almost every semester of my undergraduate career. I find myself wishing I could go back to the start of summer break.

But today, walking through campus felt exciting. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that this will be my last semester as an undergrad, or maybe it has to do with the fact that I have such a different perspective about everything these days.

But whatever the reason, I am excited.
I'm excited to be in a classroom learning about things I'm interested in again; I'm excited for Chi Alpha to start; I'm excited to be surrounded by people all day.
I'm excited to see what this semester is going to bring. Maybe an even better word is expectant.

I'm expectant for the adventure that this new semester is going to be, for the good things it will bring.

It's so crazy to think that this is really it - this is my last semester as an undergraduate. I remember getting here four years ago and feeling like college was going to last forever, and now here I am, at the brink of graduation wondering where all the time went.
I have truly loved my time here. I have learned and grown and experienced and become an adult; I've formed relationships that will truly last for the rest of my life.

And now, I find myself at yet another pivotal juncture of transition. This semester, I'm going to apply to nursing school. I'm going to quit my job. I'm going to either be accepted to nursing school or rejected, and I'm going to have to decide what my next job will be. This semester, I'm going to be constantly challenged to take leaps of faith, to trust in the Lord's plans and purposes for my life, to remember that even when things don't look the way I think they should, I'm exactly where I need to be.

I'm not going to lie - I'm a little bit apprehensive. A lot of things are changing, and have been changing. But I have heard so many people recently say that you should never worry about what you can't control. And it's so true - I have no idea what will happen once I submit my application to nursing school. I have no idea where my money is going to come from when I quit my job in December (for the record, my bosses are aware that this is happening).

But I do know that right now, I am stepping into my final semester of being a Physiology student at the University of Arizona. I have one more semester to pour into my campus ministry, Chi Alpha; one more semester filled with opportunities to be a light to my campus, in my classrooms and with my classmates.

And I want to embrace every. single. moment.

I have very few regrets, but one of them is central to every area of my life - to my past relationship with my ex-boyfriend, to the times that I got to spend with family outside of school, even to my time here at the UofA as a student. And it is that, so often, I didn't cherish every moment that I had in that place. And I regret that grievously.

So it seems that that's my new motto in life, really - if you look back at previous entries I've written, they are riddled with this challenge:

No matter where you're at, or how far away you seem to be from where you want to be, or how ordinary what you're doing might seem,

Cherish every moment. Savor your right now. COMMIT TO THIS PART OF YOUR JOURNEY.

I know I want to.

And all that, just from walking through a crowd of 5,000 sorority girls in the student union during Rush Week. My goodness. 

Friday, August 16, 2013

When Things Change

Today, I can't help but be reminded of a lot of things that are no longer part of my life. It's one of those days that used to be significant but isn't anymore, a day that used to mean something wonderful but now is just another day.

Which brings me to think about change - about the nature of change, how much it impacts us, and how much has changed in my own life in such a short amount of time. 

Change is so hard to deal with, especially when you have to experience a change that takes you from somewhere you want to be to somewhere you didn't plan on being at all. I know very few people, if any, who look forward to change or enjoy it. We get comfortable with the way things are, and we get attached to the way we like things to be, and I know I can say for myself that so often, I come to depend on the relationships I have.

So then, when something changes, it is so uncomfortable. To say the very least. Depending on where your identity lies, it can be earth-shattering.

In this current season of my life where everything has been changing - my relationships, my plans, my routines, my priorities, even the place I live and who I live with - I have been presented with a great challenge: how will I handle the change in my life?

Will I run from it? Will I let the disbelief that I ended up in a place so far from where I had thought I would be hold me still, stuck in a moment that I can't get out of? Will I be angry that things didn't go my way? Will I resist, taking the risk of missing out on beautiful new opportunities? Will I be resentful? Bitter, even?
I'd be lying if I said I haven't struggled with every single one of those.

OR -

Will I embrace the change? Will I square my shoulders, and resolve to make the most of the season that I'm in - regardless that I hadn't planned on being there in the first place? Will I see all of these new, different, unfamiliar things in my life as new adventures? Will I let go of my attachment to how things used to be, and forge headlong into the way things are, the way they will be? Will I trust that I serve a God who has beautiful plans for me, plans to prosper me and not to harm me, plans to give me hope and a future? Will I trust that He knows the desires of my heart better than I do, and that only beautiful things are in store for me if I do trust Him?

I'd like to be able to say that this is the attitude I've had consistently about all of the recent changes in my life, but that's so not the case. When your life gets turned upside down, I think your first instinct is just to survive. Honestly, this positive outlook on change is coming with time, with perspective, and with a lot of prayer. I am very much the kind of person who likes to make my plans and stick to them, the kind of person who likes to know what's happening and be in control. But I've realized that sometimes - oftentimes- you have to just accept that you (ironically) can't change everything that's changing, and so you have to just go with it.

And attitude is everything, I think, when it comes to handling situations that make you uncomfortable. Situations that challenge your normal, that take you out of your comfort zone.

But I hear that's where the magic happens - outside of your comfort zone. Outside of your box. You don't get to have adventures when you sit on the couch day after day - emotionally, or physically!

So that is my heart for this time of change, of transition - to figure out how to make the most of it. To embrace the new routines, the new relationships, the new way that everything feels. To be expectant of greater things ahead than anything I've left behind. To just keep swimming. And I'm finding that sometimes, change can be really, really good.

What changes are you navigating in life?

The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. - Psalm 18:2

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. - Jeremiah 29:11