Five Lessons from 2015

2015 was a year of humility and change. It was a year of growth and of character over comfort, of postcards and patience and a whole lot of prayer. But amidst it all, 2015 was a year of unexpected joy and the most precious of blessings. Here are five lessons I've learned along the way this year...

1. Treasure your health (and your mama). 

Brain tumor. Two words that I never thought would become rooted in my vocabulary and daily life. When my mom was diagnosed with a plum-sized brain tumor in September, life underwent a radical change overnight. Our “new normal” consisted of MRIs, appointments with specialists, hospital waiting rooms, and taking endless phone messages. Dinnertime conversation revolved around the anatomy and function of the temporal and parietal lobes. And after my mom’s brain surgery—which, by the way, was beautifully successful, and she handled everything with such grace and bravery—I found myself thrust into the position of nurse, pharmacist, caregiver, chauffeur, and housekeeper, while balancing college finals and dealing with a sprained neck. I was running on empty. Exhausted and stressed to the core, I still knew undoubtedly that I would do anything for that sweet “patient” of mine. That’s what love is. Though this season of life has been a bit trying, it’s shown me just how much I treasure my family. Now that my mama is beginning to recover, we are so joyful. We laugh at her punk-rock haircut (half shaved, exposing a rather gnarly horseshoe-shaped incision). We joke about her fifteen prescription bottles. And, most of all, we talk with new urgency about what changes we want make in our lives and how we will more actively pursue our passions. Brain surgery has been a wakeup call for our entire family. Cherish your family, cherish your health. 

2. Buy the plane ticket. Take the long drive. 

Part of having a non-linear college path means that my closest friends are dotted all across the country. As someone who tends to have fewer but closer friends, I’ve realized the importance of having highly intentional friendships. For me, this has meant saving my money for train tickets, or spending long, percolated hours in the thick of Los Angeles traffic—doing whatever I have to do just to get there and be with people that I love. My “love language” also happens to be quality time, so I’ve found it incredibly fulfilling to be able to see faraway friends and spend the weekend or even just the afternoon together. This intentionality in friendships has also meant more emails, text messages, and written letters exchanged (with emphasis on the latter... I love writing and receiving letters in the mail). 

3. Savor the little things.

Everyone goes through a period of inevitable drought, when the finances are tight, morale is low, and things feel hopeless or just monotonous. In such times, savor the small moments—the golden retriever napping next to you, a catch-up phone call with a friend, a steaming mug of something delicious paired with a well-loved book. This year, I’ve had to rely on God more than ever, and I know that he’s blessed me with an abundance of beautiful moments in return. The little things have kept me feeling joyful, blessed, and grateful for each day. 

4. Forge ahead, even if you can't see (literally). 

With my sprained neck in November came an influx of vision disturbances—a catalyst for several MRIs, neurology appointments, ophthalmology appointments, and blood work (my family has gotten quite comfortable at the doctor's office this year!). At first it felt like life was on pause as I was waiting to heal. But my normal vision didn't return, or at least not yet, so I’ve had to learn how to adjust and forge ahead. And the crazy thing is that forging ahead has made me feel more normal; some of my symptoms have become mere annoyances that I can forget about. Although I have to take extra good care of myself, I’ve actually found more relief from pushing myself to do more, even when I don’t feel like it. Every day is much too precious to be wasted (I think that’s been one of the overarching themes of the year).

5. Let yourself dream. 

As much as I advocate living in the present moment, I’ve recently found a lot of joy in letting myself just dream—of being completely impractical and getting lost in daydreams about the future. And I’ve found that it’s maybe not so frivolous after all; dreaming helps me better understand where my heart is without that pesky practicality getting the way. I dream about being an author (...without thinking about the unstable paycheck). I dream about my future vegetable garden and neighborhood and family, of the books I’ll write and the people I’ll meet. I also like to dream about the future that’s right around the corner: 2016. How will Friday, January 1st look different from today? What can I do to actively make 2016 excellent? What does this fresh, new year have in store? 2015 was a humbling year with some jagged edges, but it also was a year of wonder. I am wonderstruck at how everything—the good and the bad—worked together seamlessly in 2015. Looking back, I see God’s hand in every single moment, and I can’t wait to see what He has in store next. After all, "we know that for those who love God, all things work together for good" (Romans 8:28).

Happy New Year, friends!

 
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Finding Peace in a Busy Season

IT'S FINALS SEASON.

Laced with energy drinks, late-night swipes into the library and printers running dry of ink, finals season is the microcosm of “real world” deadlines crammed into a two-week period.

It’s like the volume dial of the stress radio was crank, crank, cranked to full blast, then broken off and stuck in position. So here we are as college students, with broken pencils, messy hair and under-eye circles, fueling caffeine addictions and nursing (or numbing) our tired minds.

Although I’m not a late night studier (I’d rather get up at 5am—perhaps a rare trait in my age group), I fit every other finals week stereotype—sleepy, swollen eyes, clothes that I fell asleep in, and a textbook never leaving the crook of my arm.

I am a school person. A perfectionist. An “oh my gosh, I got an A-” kind of gal (although I would never admit it in a classroom setting—people who verbalize that really test my patience). Being so “schooly” has its pros (good grades) and cons (a bundle of nasty stress breakdowns/freak outs/meltdowns leading up to finals week). I make flashcards and rewrite notes, annotate books and fill the pages with sticky note flags on important bits of information.

And side note: that's okay. That's who I am. I think a lot of college students think it's cool to laugh about failing classes, brag about not studying, or joke about not even having the textbooks. And I say: It's seriously cool to be smart. It's not something to be embarrassed about.

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But... Even though I usually have a good turn out once finals week is over, I’m often left a little wounded physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. I’m so hard on myself that my emotions are usually frayed, and my self-reflecting thoughts aren’t exactly the kindest. My brain turns to mush (or is hollow with a dull humming noise vibrating off of the empty caverns). I’m sleep-deprived, exercise-deprived, and nutrition-deprived (real nutrition—my finals week diet of protein bars and water doesn’t count). And worst of all, when I get to this broken (but academically excellent) point, I’ve neglected my relationship with Christ.

It’s so easy for me to sink into the depths of my schoolwork, disappearing completely into projects, presentations, papers, and study guides. I get so stressed out and mad at myself for not remembering that phosphorous makes red blood cells with folate and that the Rastafarian religion stemmed from the Queen of Sheba visiting King Solomon (I always think it's David because he is associated with Bathsheba...close enough). I forget to brush my teeth (eww kidding...kinda) or my hair. I barely remember to take deep breaths, let alone pray.

But I’ve been realizing something this time around, when my stress is greater than ever before and when the two weeks to finals also means two weeks left in the state of Texas: God is great and I am not. Riding the rush of a good grade is sweet for a few moments, until the to-do list piles back up, there’s another test on the desk in front of you, and you’re trying to handle everything on your own. I’m realizing during this finals season how much I need God. I need someone to talk to, someone to love me when I can’t remember the stomach enzyme that breaks down lipids, and someone to calm me down when my computer crashes.

The gap between our frail discipline capabilities and God’s available strength for us is bridged with nothing but a simple choice on our part.
— Lysa TerKeurst, Made to Crave

His omnipresence is a great comforter—literally a giant, soft, squishy blanket wrapped around my shoulders. With Him I’m finding the peace and joy in this finals season, and in these last two weeks at this school. I feel blessed to be able to study exactly what I love, to have a cozy apartment (with a fireplace DVD playing on loop), and to have a family that knows I’m doing my best no matter what the outcome. He keeps me from falling. He holds my hand. And sometimes, when it’s the end of the school day but there’s still more to do, he just carries me. I’m thankful for a God like this. He is my source of strength and perseverance, my cheerleader (that’s a visual), and my Heavenly Father. And of course, knowing that in two little weeks I’ll be hopping in my hybrid and cruising back to California is a giant motivator.

Joyfully in Christ,

 
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Laced with History & Salted Air: An Escape

“May I a small house and a large garden have, and a few friends, and many books, both true, both wise, and both delightful too.” –Abraham Cowley (1618-1667)

Had I been a belle of the 1600s, Abraham and I would have been dear friends. We would talk in our British accents and write poetry together as we wring out our tea bags over ancient china cups. Four hundred years later, I dream the same thing. 

It’s a little beach cottage—pre-dawn grey shingles and off-white interior walls. I have a mint green Dutch door in the kitchen; the bottom half of the door can stay shut while the top half is flung open to let in the day. There is a fingernail of a porch in the front, a larger one in the back. The back porch shifts from wooden planks to a small stone path, from the small stone path to a wide sweep of gold sand and a wider stretch of navy water.

On the side of the house, there is a giant garden housed by a short, white picket fence. “The Earth laughs in flowers,” as the soil boasts of tulips and daffodils, irises and sunflowers.I harvest leafy heads of lettuce, deep-green kale and blood-red strawberries without the constraints of the seasons.There are cantaloupes and honeydews, peaches and little tangerines on small-trunked trees. In the summer there are sweet snap peas with crunchy, lime shells (resisting their usual winter routine), and big red tomatoes, thick and fleshy.

I slip my bare toes into sandals, and with a metal watering can in one arm and a whitewashed basket in the crook of the other, I disappear into the dew-studded, earthy embrace of my own big garden alongside my own little cottage.

I have lots of golden retrievers—all ages. There’s Edison and Sebastian, Franklin and Baylee and Ginger. I chase them around all day—through the garden, into the waves. We roll in the sand when the sun shines; when the stars emerge, we lay on the shore, burying our toes and fingers in the cool sand.

There’s a charming little town laced with history and salted air—a white post office, a craft store, an ice cream parlor with long, silver spoons. There’s a newspaper shop selling piping hot cinnamon donuts and a fire station that rings a lunch bell at noon every day (à la Gull Island). The church sits on a soft, grassy hill, fulfilling the metaphor by chance more than intentionality. On Thursdays there is a farmer’s market, tables overflowing with bushels of purple huckleberries and firm green ears of corn with buttery, yellow silk escaping from their tips.

Sometimes when I’m sad, I think of my little placeof my small house and large garden.

When it rains in Texas, I dream of the sunshine on my back as I sit on a kitchen stool, head bent over a watercolor painting. When tragedy breaks my heart and shakes my world—as the death of a friend did this week—I escape to my future life, familiar but uncharted. I know every street, every roundabout, every stitch on an apron that is yet to exist. I’m familiar with a routine I do not know. I savor the friendships I am yet to experience. I touch the hardback cover of a book that I am yet to publish. I love the man I am yet to meet, braid the hair of a child I’m yet to have, and breathe with a peace I am yet to know.

We all have our own little place wedged in a corner of our heart and forgotten in the cupboards of our mind. Sometimes we don’t even know we have a place that is all ours until life is all tears and sharp words, change and heartache, and we are already packing our mental bags and kicking off our theoretical shoes. We slip into a nap, drifting along with sleepy breaths and heavy eyelids to our special neighborhood or forest or village or lake front hidden in our heart.

When the to-do list has been recycled, my water bottle refilled and in the fridge,

When my clothes for tomorrow are set out, and the bath has been drained,

When my teeth have been brushed, and my wet hair has been combed,

When the comforter is turned down, and the blankets outstretched,

When my naked toes touch the sheets, and my head hits the pillow,

My mind tiptoes away from Texas and college and the sorrow of the week, and floats to my place—to my cottage on the seashore.

My place is where moonlight streams through the windowpane, and the glow of the stars tickle the glass. My place is where I wade knee-deep in the sea, running my fingertips along the surface of the water, happy to be a small fragment of His creation. My place is where my phone is a landline, the postman delivers on foot, the smiles are easy and genuine, the laughter is melodic and frequent, and my garden overflows.

 

Joyfully in Christ,

He Met Me in the Sky

I am highly, highly, claustrophobic.

After nearly 20 years of practice I can hide it rather effortlessly, but inside I’m dipping into full-fledged panic. I’m this weird sort of hybrid mix of “don’t touch me” and “let’s hold hands forever.” I love being close to the people I love, and I’m beyond affectionate. In terms of strangers, the affection breaks to complete distain. Don’t touch me. Don’t get in my little bubble of space that I have so carefully and cautiously crafted around myself.

On Tuesday after class I braved the airport. It was my first time returning home since July, so I was absolutely itching/longing/pining for my sweet family and cute little beach town.

Long story short, two seemingly bearable flights turned into a massive 10-hour escapade. Everything that could go wrong did (other than complete tragedy, right?), as often happens with airports. I “stepped out of bounds” in the San Francisco airport searching in vain for the shuttle that my pilot had flippantly mentioned. Stressed out and frazzled, I asked for directions from a rude security guard. He then forced me to exit the airport completely and re-enter, once again braving the nauseating security lines even though I had just hopped off of one plane and was looking for my connecting flight. “This kind of thing happens to other people, not me,” I immediately thought while half-crying and practically vibrating with anxiety. I was longing for home. Eventually I made it into the airport once more and managed to track down my gate and shuttle, but was slapped hard in the face with a two-hour delay—the second delay of the night. I was absolutely begging God to carry me home safely. 

After feeling trapped in two giant, security-line-rimmed, travel-sized-bottles-only airports, I finally boarded my second flight. I adore my little beach town, but arriving is always a challenge (last year I was stuck in Arizona alone overnight when I missed a connecting flight due to weather—that was fun). We have a little fingernail of an airport, and thus the only jets flying in and out are practically children’s toys. As soon as the tiny piece of Wright-based ingenuity took off into the sky, I was panic-stricken. The claustrophobic cabin, turbulence and horrible guy sitting across from me (who attempted passing flirty notes with me during the flight... see below) had me praying fervently for my own safety.

“Please, please, please, please keep me safe,” I would repeat. I’m in this habit of repeating my prayers over and over and over again, especially when there is a sense of urgency to them. “Keep me safe, keep me safe, keep me safe,” I pleaded as the turbulence tossed the plane vehemently through ink black skies.  My knuckles were white. My heart was racing. Completely morbid thoughts were skipping through the caverns of my mind.

“My child,” He said, “I heard you the first time.”

It came from nowhere. In the midst of the ratting plane and deafening engine, I heard Him so clearly that I was almost afraid. I have had some pretty radical God-moments in my lifetime, but this was the clearest. The noise was just gone. It was Him and me. All the way home we talked. He comforted me, always calling me His child, daughter, and little one. I love when He does that. I had this out-of-this-world sense that the little jet was resting in the palm of His hand as He carefully guided us home safely.

Through the panic, the claustrophobia, and the urgency, He met me in the sky.

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Happy Thanksgiving-

A Little Grown-Up

Here begins another incredible journey. Today marks the dawning of a new school year brimming with challenge, change and uncertainty, but also growth, friendship and laughter.

No longer am I the little college freshman in a 10X10 box called a dorm room. I am officially in my own “big girl” apartment, ready to take on the world.

While this week has been a tangled mess of sorority recruitment (think Theta, think right), coordinating plans with family (who were kind enough to drive my car here and move me in), topped off with a heaping serving of stomach flu, I am still beaming. I know that I’m in the best possible place for this chapter of my life; I often feel as though my school was perfectly and methodically hand crafted for me. He deliberately stacked every yellow brick, and gently arranged every pink tulip and purple pansy. He is the one who allowed me to come to this school, be in this sorority, live in this apartment, and have this family. All of my praise goes to Christ. Thank you Lord for my abundant blessings! Thank you Lord for the opportunity of a fresh year ahead.

I am ecstatic to see what amazing things he has in store for me as this year unfolds. Lord, allow me to be a light for you. Fill me with the Holy Spirit as I take on this new school year, and shower me with confidence and courage. I love you so incredibly much, God. Hold me in the palm of your hand, and comfort me (particularly this week) if I ever become nervous about being a "little grown-up.” Fill me with peace, knowing that I will be able to spend a soothing, sweet week with my family in November, and a month with them in December (hellooooo, Hawaii). Saturate my heart with your gentle love and comforting guidance.

Last but not least—hold my hand through the duration of my stomach flu, would you?

"Let the light of your face shine on me. Fill my heart with joy...in peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety." | Psalm 4:6-8

P.S.: The Little English Girl has been updated! If you are reading this post from your email inbox, visit my site to see what's changed: www.rdiane.com

I Can Feel God Working

Lately I’ve been feeling stuck in a too-comfortable, too familiar rut-like routine.

I’ve felt frustrated by elements of my college experience that aren’t exactly headed in the direction that I have planned or hoped. It is only when I make a conscious effort, taking a moment to quiet my chaotic, worry-filled mind and anxious nature, and just sit in peace that I can feel this sort of vibrating energy in my heart.

I am overcome by such a powerful feeling that although I can’t see Him orchestrating, he’s crafting a beautiful symphony that is my future. Weaving melodious friendships with the sweet air of laughter, rich tones of joy after sorrow, and harmonious songs of love, He carefully and thoughtfully shapes each note of my life. I am thoroughly excited to uncover His will, living out His perfect plan for me with a servant’s heart.

I love Him. I love how He loves me. I am in awe of his goodness, for I don’t deserve such a rich, deep, boundless love, and yet I am showered with His sweet compassion anyway. I am eternally, deeply, fully thankful for the blessings that I’ve been given.

Thank you, God, for dwelling in my heart. I trust you entirely and I eagerly await the day when you reveal to me your perfect plans. Please give me a patient heart and grant me the wisdom to differentiate between the sounds of my rambling thoughts, clanging against the interiors of my mind, and your steady voice. Thank you for changing my heart and molding me into a woman of God. Thank you for this incredible life and I’m sorry if I don’t love it enough. Give me a fresh perspective, allowing me to see the sheer abundance of blessings in my life, and the pure magnificence of your creation. Thank you for working in my heart, molding the path that awaits me. I love you so much!


Captivated by HIS Love

This week, the Lord has showered me with exactly what I need to hear, and at the perfect timing—a perfection that could only stem from Him.

I am forced to endure the same situation over and over and over again until I learn. At first I felt like the victim—how could this happen to me, again and again? Then I realized my ignorance. The Lord was giving me the same situations as new opportunities. The Lord wanted me to change and grow and learn on my own. I can truly say now, Lord, that I’ve learned. I’ve been so focused on seeking love from others that I have been overlooking the one true and perfect love who dwells in my heart. Christ should be my first love. Today I had lunch with two beautiful recent college grads that lead the bible study I attend. While munching on tacos and queso dip, we stumbled across the topic of love. I gave them a brief insight into what my love life looks like—nonexistent, yet so tangled and messy. The girls simply smiled knowingly, offering very little comments. Why? I so desperately crave guidance. Hours later, my plea was answered. They wouldn't be providing me with guidance, but He would. I walked into bible study and they handed me a paper with two verses bolded across the top—the topic of tonight’s study would be love.

“Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue, but with actions and truth.” -1 John 3:18.

The Lord is who encourages me to set my standards this high. I want to be loved and pursued actively and completely. I don’t want to be showered with empty compliments and shallow “I love you’s.” I want to be loved honestly, purely, and wholeheartedly, by a man who loves the Lord just as entirely.

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers…This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” -1 John 3:16; 4:10.

This is the love I must pursue. This is the only love that can completely satisfy my soul. It is God’s love that I want to be captivated by. I want to get lost in Him.


God calls the men to pursue, and the women to seek pursuit. He calls us as girls to guard our hearts, and to use our worldly affectionate love to bring Him glory. I crave this kind of love. I pine for the day when I meet such a man of God. I pine for this day so much, however, that my lack of patience leads me to look elsewhere for affection. So Lord, this is my prayer: help me to stop frantically searching for worldly love and affections. Lead me to stop forcing what isn’t present, and to stop trying to fit things that are not in your plan into my life. Give me the courage to be single, but to be deeply, permanently, contently in a relationship with you. Give me the patience to wait for the man that you are preparing for me. Comfort me with your presence, and envelop me with your flawless love and compassion. Lord, I want you to dwell in my in heart and in my life. Please hold me tightly through this transition period that I’m enduring, and thank you, thank you, thank you, for the amazing and supportive people you have placed in my life on this campus. I am so blessed and grateful. I love you so completely and wholeheartedly. I don’t deserve your love but thank you for showering me in your grace and love anyway. Amen.

“Dance with God; He’ll let the perfect man cut in.”