Sunday, May 13, 2018

Growing Up (In the Best Way Possible)

As I prepare to not only graduate, but to turn 18 as well, I find myself reflecting on where God has brought me in my life and where I started out. I find myself remembering things that had slipped so far down into the cracks of my memory that I'm shocked when I find them again.

Eight years ago, I was looking in a mirror and wrinkling my nose at the person that looked back at me. Big ears. Small frame. Scraggly brown hair that wasn't curly or straight. Freckles. An overbite. Shorter than my younger sister and looking younger than I was. I didn't care for that person very much - they were oversensitive and not terribly smart and kind of annoying. Kind of lonely, too.

Six years ago, I looked in a mirror again and inwardly grumbled. Same big ears. Same tiny, petite frame. Same brown hair that was too thin to be pretty. Same freckles. I had braces now to help my gap-toothed overbite, but I didn't like them. At this point, I had nearly given up on catching up with Allie's height, and it was not uncommon for people my age to assume I was 2-3 years younger. That person was more insecure and confused and lonely than before.

Five years ago, I looked in a mirror and for the first time, really hated what I saw. Every quirk and seeming flaw I saw as being infinitely worse than it was. My eyes had not magically turned blue as I longed for them to my whole life and were still the same dull brown as they had always been. My hair was curly now, but I didn't like it because I didn't know what to do with it. Still some freckles, but while I had liked them at ten, I despised them at thirteen. Struggling with anxiety and extreme depression in private, I tried to find friends and typically failed. I was too anxious to please, too desperate and clingy - I didn't really know why no one would talk to me. Social awkwardness is not uncommon and I wasn't the only early teenager to struggle with it, but I assumed there was something wrong with me and for some reason, I was not as good as other people.

Four years ago, I was still struggling to curb my anxiety (although God had taken away my depression the year before) and I didn't even bother trying to deal with my insecurities because I figured it was all true. I was socially awkward. I wasn't pretty, although I felt pretty at times and that's almost as nice. It was the ugly-teenage-chicken stage (if you've ever seen a teenage chicken, you know what I'm talking about) and I resigned myself to it.

Three years ago, I joined a cadet program and realized if I worked hard, I could rise through the ranks and do well. I could join the camaraderie that the cadet officers and NCO's had with each other and fit in. Obviously I could never hold a leadership position and I took for granted that any idea I had to improve something had already been considered by the other cadets, so I didn't like speaking up. On reaching the rank of Cadet Staff Sergeant, I purposely requested that they would not give me a leadership position because I was not capable. No matter who the other options were, I considered myself as the rightful last option for any position or job.

Today I look in the mirror, as I have countless times before without even thinking about it. Dark eyes that I have slowly come to terms with. Brown, curly hair that I'm learning how to tame. Straighter teeth that smile and laugh back at me. My ears are big - I've been told so and been made fun of for it a few times, but I don't mind. I owned it and learned to wiggle them at the people that bothered me about them. I have more confidence than ever before, and for the first time in my life I know that I'm smart - even though I've been told so countless times before, I never accepted it until now. I've got a best friend that has my back no matter what and am surrounded by good, godly friends that care about me and make me feel included. I love leading and working with people, and I accept that I will make mistakes sometimes and that God will forgive me and give me second chances. I'm completely capable and I get excited about new challenges.

Maybe someday I'll look in the mirror and see someone fearless, someone completely given up to God's will for her life. I'm trying to become that person and I'm learning to be patient.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Letting Go of Someday (4/12/18)

I finished crocheting a baby blanket last week that I've been working on for a long time. With every stitch, I cherished dreams of a home of my own someday and of a child that I could someday swaddle in it. The sunny yellow squares criss-crossing the perfectly white ones is such a cheery picture to me, but more than that, this little blanket is a dream for someday.

I've got a lot of dreams like that. Someday dreams. Dreams that I know can't happen right now. For the most part, I'm okay with waiting and biding my time because I know it's worth the wait in the end. But sometimes, something happens that stops my contentment in its tracks and causes me to wonder about things that I shouldn't worry about yet. When I see pictures on Facebook of different friends beginning a relationship with someone and my foolish heart whispers,

"You know, you're the same age as they are."

"You'll be 18 next month and you've never been in a relationship."

"Wonder what that's like."

"Maybe you could have had that if only..."

I think the two words I hate the most are if and almost. If has so much uncertainty crammed into it. Almost is a word full of regret. They're words that are used so often, sometimes we forget what they mean - to come so close to something, only to miss it. Something didn't work out that would have in other circumstances.

Some of my someday dreams are too close to my heart to share. They're too precious to put out there for people to know because to my young, naive heart, they hold almost sacred value. It's why I don't share all of my poems, why I don't know what I want to do when I grow up, and why I don't try to make those dreams happen. What if it doesn't turn out the way I dreamed it would? What if I mess it up? It's so much easier to let them remain in my mind as perfection than to bring them into reality and accept that they will have the flaws that everything in this world has.

Contentment. Peace. Patience. Wisdom. Humility. Purity. 

Stop focusing on what I may become one day : the Girlfriend. The Wife. The Mother.

And focus on what I am right now : the Daughter. The Sister. The Friend.

Stop imagining stories where I am : the Adventurer. The Hero. The Fearless.

And learn how to become what I would so like to be : the Author. The Mentor. The Selfless

Monday, February 26, 2018

The Impact of Literature (2/26/18)

It has happened that in the span of my lifetime, I have been gifted the title - the nickname, if you will - of "Nerd". It's an undeniable fact, whether I am proud of it or not. Fortunately for my self-esteem, I am rather pleased with it.

Some of my best friends are Edmond Dantes, Jane Eyre, and David Copperfield. How could it be otherwise, when Jane confides in me so trustingly her greatest hopes and fears, when I have known David since before he was born? How could it be any other way, when I have undergone all of Edmond's agonies in the Chateau D'If by his side and can understand his turn to vengeance?

There are many others that have strayed into my life: Elizabeth Bennet's muddy boots and stained hem have left their imprint on my memory... Anne-spelled-with-an-E left the shards of her broken slate lying scattered on the wooden foundation of my mind... Jo March's tears and ink stains have made a mess of my work-desk... the elusive, dashing Scarlet Pimpernel has snatched the victims of Mme. La Guillotine away to England out from under my very nose... Sydney Carton's final thoughts and his heart-wrenching, "You were the last dream of my soul," reduces me to a teary mass of flawed emotion every time I look back on it... I was left in confusion and dismay when the kingdom of Dor outlawed soup and rats (even though I hated both at the time!)... I closed the door behind us as Bilbo Baggins and I raced to catch up with the dwarves at the inn in Bree... I flew with Peter Pan to Neverland and cried when I had to come home... Even Sun Tzu has left his mark, like an old teacher that doesn't recognize when he is droning on (however boring, one must remember that all of his advice is extremely well-intentioned and he is only informing you for your own benefit)...

I am oddly and irrevocably attached to my literary friends - they have shaped my life and the person I have become as much as any friend I have been able to know and speak to in person.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

All the Lovely Feelings (2/22/18)

When a small child falls asleep on your lap, their head buried in your shoulder.

When the weather is perfect and you're driving with the windows down.

Singing to your favourite songs at a concert, with thousands of other people that know every word.

Laughing so hard that your eyes tear up and you almost cry.

Being a part of something bigger than yourself, something that impacts the world around you for the better.

Knowing the people that love and support you are right by your side and in no hurry to leave.

Traveling and going on road trips, and having a home to miss and go home to afterward.

Doing something - anything! - with the people you love most.

The idea of being independent and free, of flying and knowing your own wings will bear you safely.

Running as fast as you can to the person that you haven't seen in ages and hugging them tightly - the thought of never letting go again.

Walking barefoot on the cool, spring earth (and everywhere else - but especially in the springtime).

Working a trade that you love and supports you (and sometimes others!).

Going on adventures, and making memories that you will never forget.

Knowing that you are in the center of God's will for you right now.

There are so many lovely feelings in the world, each as different as can be, but they all have one thing in common:

Each of these experiences makes you feel as if you  b e l o n g .

In a world where that is in scarce commodity, it's such a beautiful thing to feel that your heartbeat is not one too many or one too little, but adds the perfect number to the group and completes it.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The Truth About Valentine's Day (2/14/18)

As my Valentine's Day gradually comes to a close, I get cosy on the couch in my living room and think about the different aspects of the holiday. Some people are celebrating their romantic relationship and the attributes they love about that certain someone, some people are waving their S.A.D. banners, proclaiming their completeness (albeit without a romantic partner) to the skies, and some people are ignoring the holiday altogether or coupling it with smearing ashes on their forehead for Ash Wednesday.

My day wasn't really any of those in particular; I went to college in the afternoon for my class as I always do on Wednesdays, I made dinner (which was a bit unusual), and drove to church for Wednesday night Bible study with my sister. On the surface, it looked like any other day in my life.

But if you look closer, and you look for the little things, you'll find them easily: my mom and two younger sisters made us healthy cinnamon rolls this morning, two of my other sisters did the laundry, my mom wrote each of us a little note, describing some of the things she loves about us most and assuring us that we will always have that love. There are others, and I could continue to list them, but I'll leave it with that short, heartfelt list.

As a teenage girl surrounded by couples that hold hands and laugh together, it's hard sometimes. I won't lie, there are times when I wish I was part of a relationship like that - but it's always fleeting. It's always a temporary wish that flees fast away when I think about everything God has me doing right now and all the things I want to do and be a part of someday. I have a dream of being in a relationship with someone special someday, but it's nothing like a Hallmark movie relationship - and I wouldn't want it to be! They're always so cheesy and superficial and fake. The couples that are on those shows would never last. God's is a love that lasts, and never wavers. My family's is the love that will follow me, no matter how far I go from home.

It's not about wishing for something you don't have, it's about appreciating what you do. It's about remembering and being grateful for the people you love and that love you, too. It's the little kindnesses, like homemade cinnamon rolls and handwritten notes, and the ones that go unseen and unappreciated, like the grace that we are given and the patience we are shown.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Stuck (1/23/17)

"Where are you going to college?"
"What are your plans for after you graduate?"
"What do you think you'll major in?"

These are the questions that I think many of us soon-to-be graduates hear often and sometimes, we just don't have an answer. These kinds of questions terrify us because they remind us that we have no idea what we're doing and we don't have a plan set in stone yet. There's so much that could go wrong, and whenever I scroll through possible college majors, I'm constantly haunted by the worry, "What if I choose wrong? What if I'm stuck doing something I hate?"

I have a wide variety of interests, although most of them can fit into the creative side of things. I love business and creating things to sell, figuring out how to build the kind of website I want, creating the designs and layouts, and actually making the products and advertising them to the public. Entrepreneurial work is something I'm very interested in and enjoy doing.

Writing is also a hobby I love getting involved in, but it's never been a serious endeavor simply because I've never taken it seriously enough. Lately, I've only been writing short stories and poems, but if you dig deeper under all the piles of abandoned dreams and cancelled aspirations, you can find the hope of writing manuscripts and novels, even Christian dramas.

Theatrical pursuits and the arts are something I am extremely passionate about, and I have a vague hope of a career in a Christian theatre that produces quality, Biblical productions. I love being a part of something bigger than myself, of putting on a production that will touch the people in the audience and maybe change their perspectives on different subjects.

I want to help people. Usually when I say that, people immediately ask, "Oh, what about becoming a nurse?" and although I have several friends that have gone to study to be in that field, that's not something that appeals to me. I'd love to be able to, but I'm not good with medical procedures or keeping cool in extreme emergencies. I can handle minor things, but I can't take major amounts of blood or bones showing or anything even similar. I get sick just hearing people talk about them sometimes! I want to help people, but I'd be no good trying to help in that way. I want to adopt as many children as my future home can fit (and more!); I want to volunteer my time and talents to something that I can completely lose myself in; I want something that sets my soul on fire, something that I can pour myself and everything I have into.

I have too much time and not enough at the same time. I don't want to begin life in earnest yet (get another job, sign up for more classes/apply for college, etc.) because I'm applying for a position this summer and I don't know if I'll find my calling there or if I'll find myself knowing I need to come back home. I don't want to start anything huge because of the time I'll be away.

I'm not afraid anymore; I just feel stuck. 

Friday, January 12, 2018

The Power and Grace of God (1/12/17)

I'm amazed by the power and grace of God.

In my sorrow, He gives me joy. In my confusion, He grants me peace. In my certainty, He humbles me. In my mistakes, He gives me mercy and forgiveness over and over.

It is easy to become discouraged in what we have failed to accomplish or in what we have worsened by our involvement. It is much harder to accept that our mistakes can be forgiven and forgotten both by the people around us and by God Himself. It's hard to work up the courage to try again when the last time we tried something of the same nature, it fell on its face - maybe even hurt someone we held close.

There are friendships that I've never proven I cherish. There are people who I've never told that I love them. There are prayers that I have prayed, but in my apathy and unbelief, never expected an answer.

I have so many hopes and dreams, so many ambitions for the future. I'm so excited for whatever may lie ahead!

Fear has always been one of the things that holds me back the most. It's a sort of prison that keeps me from pursuing dreams and from fully following God. I'm not a brave person; I'm not full of courage or valor or strength. I wish I was, but those are not some of the attributes God saw fit to bless me with. I'm willing to trust Him, as I know He is so much wiser than I am. His courage will be my courage, His strength my strength. His arm will uphold me and shelter me and He will hold my life in His hands.

I'm not afraid. Let the future begin. 

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

When I Thought I Knew It All (10/31/17)

When I thought I was growing and learning so much, I was forgetting some of the most important people in my life. 

The longer I live and the more days I go through, the more I realize that history repeats itself and that there is nothing new under the sun. In the times when I began to look down on people around me, God showed me what true humility looks like and how it is just the opposite of my own behavior. In the times when I was so caught up and distracted with unimportant events and happenings in my life that I neglected and left behind some of my best friends, He used someone to show me how my selfishness and insecurity had seeped in and hurt some of the people who are most important to me. There's not much that I regret more than the mistakes I have made in this last summer. 

In my very pride lay my insecurity; in my ambitions for the future, I idealized the past and discarded the present as useless, as something that was necessary, but undesirable. As the necessity which constrained me and held me back. In my excitement for what-may-be-some-day, I have taken for granted all of the opportunities and things I have now. 

I want to fix things, but I'm not sure how. I want to bring about complete reconciliation, but I understand that forgiveness isn't always easy and certainly seldom deserved. I understand that I have to earn trust again and that it is much harder to gain it back than to lose it and I'm not afraid to admit that I've been so very wrong and to work hard to be the friend I should have been all along.

God, give me a closed mouth and open ears. Grant me the serenity and contentment to be joyful in my circumstances and grateful for the place I am in right now. Please give me your wisdom so that I may better appreciate the gifts I've already been given.

I never knew less than when I thought I knew it all.

"Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing"