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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Being Intentional in 2014

I’ve been thinking a lot about intentionality lately.

In correlation with my last post, I think we’re all just a bit too rooted in technology, worshipping the saturated,overflowing internet, and delighting in the instant gratification of telephone chimes and tones and buzzes and bells. I'm both a futurist and a learner, thus captivated by innovation of all walks; I'm not trying to discredit the genius of our devices nor the forward thinking of our minds. I've just noticed something, in both myself and my fellow little earthlings, that I think may be important (perhaps even crucial) to explore.

We have this immunity to instant gratification that leaves us flighty and unfocused—life becomes a perpetual swipe and click, moving on to something more interesting, more shocking, and with less words, but more pictures. More, more, more. Our appetites are insatiable. We swallow up social media in giant, desperate gulps. We are just haphazardly scrolling, and clicking, swimming with frantic, flailing arms.

We reply to texts in 3 seconds, barely reading what we’re actually responding to. We skim emails—if there are more than 2 paragraphs, we delete on impact. Words clatter from our mouths while our speech limps along, muddling meaning with filler—“like’s” and “um’s” and “you know’s” coil tightly around every other word. We say hi without how are you, and mumble in conversation, eyes anxiously searching the ceiling to avoid dreaded contact. Our attention turns to our shoes and phones as we walk from point A to point B, hardly in this world at all.

We’re flighty and aimless and frantic and random.

What if, when we do set down our devices, we look at each other—actually look into each other’s eyes, shoulders squared and feet firm? What if we tasted our words, both carefully and cautiously, before we spit them out? What if we chose them like presents, wrapping and taping and tying bows, gifting our peers with well-thought-out ideas?

What if we paused to think?

One of my resolutions for 2014 is to be intentional, purposeful, and present. It means savoring slowness, sitting peacefully, with a softened brow and relaxed eyes, simply thinking of someone, and sending them love and light and joy. Intentionality means slipping away from the world’s quickening pace, even if for a few moments, and contemplating.

Intentionality means a heightened attention to how we hold ourselves, and the words we let through the mind’s door. It means buying flowers on friends' birthdays and offering to bake the bread or bring the salad at a dinner party. It means candles as housewarming gifts. It means taking the time to call on father’s day, not just send a quick text. Intentionality is thinking—really, really thinking—about life, and people, and our own hearts.

Let’s live this way, friends. I think it might just be worth a shot.