Just Look...

Just Look...

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

To You, I Say...

It's Olympic season. And although I love watching them so much, and they always inspire me and bring me to tears and reignite my patriotism, they also have a way of making me feel somewhat "less than". These people have dedicated themselves to a purpose and are, in some cases as young as fifteen years of age, accomplishing what most will only dream of-- an Olympic medal! But I think the part I overlook as I sit and watch Ted Ligety on giant slalom and Ashley Wagner on ice is the struggle that got them there.... the falls, the tears, the injuries, the time sacrificed, the days they wanted to give up, the friends lost, the events missed, the soreness, the failures, the close calls, the heartbreaks... and no doubt the very pieces of their journey that made the platform that much sweeter.

I know so many who are struggling right now. 

Today I had serious conversations with two students who are struggling with growing up, with relationships. Senior year? It's so hard. It's hard to let go when you want to hold on tightly, to hold on when your every instinct wants to let go. It's hard to co-exist in that strange place between childhood and adulthood, to feel so ready to take the world on some days and just like you want to crawl up into your mommy's lap on others. It's hard to "make the most of every moment", "yolo", and "carpe diem" when you also know that you need to study for this test and that one, write this essay, attend this practice, volunteer at that event, and work this shift. 

To you all, I say: Keep breathing. Keep waking up every morning and learning who you are more and more each day. Keep walking that tightrope and you'll get better and better at balance. Keep pushing. This time is so short and will truly be in the past sooner than you can imagine. And you will look back with such fondness at this cool in-between person you are. But my how you will love the person you become... You can do it. The struggle is worth the next chapter.

People I know are struggling with friendships. There's a line in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar where Brutus says (about Cassius), "Thou hast described a hot friend cooling." It's so difficult when friendships change (or vanish), especially when there isn't a specific reason for it. It's awful to lose that "hot friend", that person who once mattered so much to you but now is a stranger. It's tough to have good news, or sad news, or need advice, but have no "favorite" in your phone list anymore to call. 

To you, I say: Let go or grab hold. If this person matters enough to you to fight for, then fight. Make yourself vulnerable, be the bigger person, make the call. If not, soldier on. There are very likely other people around you who have always wanted to get to know you better, people who can't imagine how a person like you could be lonely. There may be people around you who are feeling just as alone as you are. Reach out to them, make a friend, be a friend. The struggle is worth the connection.

My family is struggling with the aging and health issues of my grandmother. It is so painful to see the people you love most, the people who have always been your strength, in a vulnerable situation in which they are dependent on others. It's hard to hear her acknowledge her confusion and, as she calls it, "crazy", to know that she is aware of her lapse into spells of dementia and mourns it. It scares me to know that this could only be the beginning. It terrifies and overwhelms me to look into the future and know that I still have another grandparent, parents, in-laws, eventually siblings and even a spouse who could venture down this difficult road one day as well.

To you, to us, I say: In the grand scheme of life, this season is so short. There are so many years of memories and moments to hold on to in this darker time. Let's view this as an opportunity to hold the hand that held ours through so many challenges in the past, to get on our knees and return the hours of time on bended knee in a bedroom across town, to sit and listen (even if it's over and over... and over) to the one who listened to our infant cries and toddler fits and rambling stories of childhood and silly complaints of youth. Don't be overwhelmed by the future, because God has plenty of grace there for us. Let's just drink of the grace available for today. The struggle is so worth the moments we have had.

Sometimes, God asks us to do things that create struggle. Friends are struggling right now to raise funds for a mission trip. It's a hard walk of faith when you know that God is calling you to something but your brain says it can't possibly work out. $3000 is a lot of money. So they can bbq sauce and they craft things and they hold yard sales and Kraig makes apple butter, pizza sauce, and banana bread. They scratch and claw and sell tshirts and worry that they are annoying everyone around them, that they have become "that person". But they know it's a not something that is a choice. When God says, "Go"... You GO.

To you, I say: Keep on. Keep being creative, keep working your fingers to the bone, keep canning and making and crafting and selling. I've been there and I can promise you-- it's so worthwhile. There is no feeling quite like that of trusting the Lord to make a way, then seeing Him do it. There is no feeling quite like that of standing on the soil of a place He has called you to. This struggle is worth the hands you will hold, the hearts you will touch, and the lives that will blend with yours.
I gave my AP class a really hard assignment yesterday. It's the second year I have made this particular assignment and I am very aware of its difficulty. They typically balk at it, complain a bit, then dig in and get to work. Sometimes within the process they give up a little, then find some inner creativity/spark/poetry that carries them to completion. I talked to one student today about hers and we brainstormed a bit after school. She sent me a rough draft of her work this afternoon... wow. There is such beauty in the struggle sometimes. It's the knowledge I have of the difficulty of the assignment that causes the goosebumps on my arms when success is reached by these kids. When they read these completed palindromic writings, I just sit in awe, chills running up and down my body. Because they did it. They tried and they risked failure and they struggled and they came out on the other side with an incredible creation. 

Because that's us, y'all. We just have to get through the struggle, find the beauty in the struggle, in order to get to the podium and hear "our song".

Sunday, February 16, 2014

A 10 Point Snow Week Post

Oh yeah, I have this blog! ;) To ease myself back into not only writing, but also real life (after a week's reprieve in the form of a snowcation), it's going to be a list today. But a list of VALUABLE INFORMATION from my week of LIFE RESEARCH.

1. I have still never made or had snowcream in my life. And I feel a touch slighted by that, but not slighted enough to use the snow we collected in the two bowls we left out all night Wednesday. Maybe in three more years when it snows again.

2. Southerners may be ill-equipped to deal with snow but we are very good at improvising and our round sleddish discs worked very well attached to Gators and 4Wheelers via water skiing ropes. We had an absolute ball on Wednesday making laps around the horse pasture. The girls and Eli even took a few turns being pulled on their snowboards, wakeboard-style.

3. There is absolutely no better timing in the world than a big snow during the Winter Olympics. Not only was it so much fun to always have something good on television, it also worked beautifully for Emma and Kelsey to easily imagine themselves in Sochi at the top of the halfpipe each time they took their snowboards down our driveway.

4. Speaking of something on television, I have two new favorite shows that I discovered on GAC-- "Junk Gypsies" and "Flea Market Flip". They are perfect for my upcycling, flea market junking self. The girls loved them too.

5. Movies! There are so many fantastic movies in the Redbox and theaters right now. We rented "Captain Phillips", which I highly recommend although an AED would also be handy to have near while you watch. It was really a well-done movie and I am just so obsessed with the Navy SEALS. Wow. We also watched "Grace Unplugged" with my parents and it was really quite good as well. The girls just loved it (spent the next day writing songs). It was clean, had a great message, and included a cameo by Chris Tomlin. What's not to love? Kraig and I watched "The Butler" last night... good grief. What a movie, what a historical piece, what tragedy is buried in American history. I think it's a must-see, although disturbing. Tonight we hit the theater to see "The Monuments Men" and I can't say enough about that movie. Of course it is based in my favorite period in history and also includes several moments that tie directly to the Holocaust, but it also really told a story I have not heard before. I have looked at several pieces of art that were mentioned in that movie and never stopped to consider how they survived two world wars and various other conflicts since their creation!

6. I haven't read a ton, but I did finish a few that merit a mention. The Happiness Project is a Gretchen Ruben book I read years ago and really enjoyed. I had started Happier at Home a few months back but had trouble settling in to read it. I finished it over break and walked away with several really good ideas. I'm almost finished with a reread of Chris Cleave's Little Bee (a favorite of mine for FOREVER). It's a book that makes you want to drink in every sentences, to swim through the pages and float on the paragraphs. I just love it so. I have also started Jonathon Martin's Prototype and am really digesting it slowly. It's powerful.

7. It is possible to have six days at home with no obligations and somehow get absolutely nothing productive done. This is why I am frantically sorting out what MUST be done tomorrow. UGH.

8. I'll say more on this later, but we are needing to kick our Cambodia fundraising into high gear so Kraig has a batch of pizza sauce, he is going to make one more batch of apple butter, and I am ready to make more "Home" shirts as people order them. It's getting to be crunch time.

9. My grandmother is back in the nursing home for rehab, this time after a hip break and surgery. It's been a bit of a tough transition this time, as confusion seems to be setting in heavier than before. It's difficult to see and hear because she knows she's confused and that agitates her even more. I can't imagine what it must be like to feel like you are losing control of your mental capacities, and I feel so sorry for her. Any prayers for her would be appreciated.

10. Because when one has a list, it must end with 5, 10, or any other increment of 5, I'll add that this week home with my people has been precious time to me. I am so madly in love with these two girls and I love our days together. I just dread so much the day that they are gone from this house and my arms.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

My Time with "The Veil"

I love art. I love art in its every form, from literature to visual art to music to theater. Until this afternoon, however, I had never seen a dance performance. Wow. The girls and I went to see Lee University's Unity Troupe perform "The Veil", which was probably the most powerful and moving experience I have ever had in the context of a theater. It was just... Goodness.

The talent of the dancers, the BEAUTY of the writing, the depth of the story, & the profundity of the thoughts...I'm in awe. I just wanted to take some time while it was fresh on my mind to reflect a little about the things I felt like God used this performance to remind me.

The overall story was the story of the Creation. When the animals were coming out a few at a time, I smiled at the thought of Him forming each of them, with all of their diversity and complexity. I teared up the first time when the monkeys came on the stage. It just blows my mind to really consider the care and detail that went into the animals and, in some cases, the humor that had to have been there. How glad I am to serve a God of humor, a King who laughs and a smiling Savior.

Another part of the program that at first caught me off-guard but ended up resulting in some deep thinking was the immediate post-Adam creation. They really emphasized an intimacy between the Spirit of God (played by a female) and Adam. At first, I was a bit unsettled by that. Then I took a step back and considered what Adam represented to His Creator... His masterpiece, His newborn babe, His closest friend. We aren't called the "Bride of Christ" for no reason. And it really made me question, is that level of intimacy present in MY life between me and my Savior?

As for the next takeaway, it could have totally been in my imagination and not purposely in the performance, but it still made me think. The Spirit of God and Adam danced beautifully together after creation. After the creation of Eve, before the Spirit of God allowed Eve to go to Adam, she also danced with Eve. Again, this could have been a stretch on my part, but what was so impressed on my mind from that part was that we have to learn to dance with God before we can dance with others. He HAS to be our first priority. If our relationship with Him isn't solid, none of the rest of our relationships will be either.

Another part that was different from the ways I have always imagined it was with the Fall itself. The struggle between the Serpent and the Spirit of God and Adam and Eve was not a short one. It wasn't a quick decision--eat the apple, learn everything, easy choice. There was an ongoing battle, a struggle, back and forth and back and forth. It's no different than a sin decision today. Most of us don't make snap choices to sin, impetuously. It typically comes with a struggle.

For me, the most painful and REAL moment of the entire performance was after the Fall when the Spirit of God fell to the ground and uttered the most gut-wrenching, visceral cry you can imagine. It was all the more powerful because it was the first vocal sound in the performance to that point. As I watched the girl playing this part writhe on the ground, clutching the fabric that represented righteousness, moaning in pain, it made me cry. It's not something we think about very often, or at least I don't. And it's not a far leap to consider the sort of pain He feels right now, every time I sin. Wow.

The show ended with the restoration of humankind through the redemption story via the Cross and the Resurrection. It, too, was just a phenomenal visual representation of the story of MY salvation. I can't say enough about this performance. I know there's a big game of some sort on tomorrow night, but I guarantee you, this show will cause you to delve into your spirit  and relationship with God in a way very few things can. 7:30. Dixon Center at Lee. It's so worth it!