What a sweet opportunity to share a bit of my heart and encourage others to delight in their faith and heritage! Thank you so much to the Religious Studies Departments of the University of California, Santa Barbara; San Diego State University; California State University, Fresno; California State University, Chico; and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.
This past year marked my parents’ 30th wedding anniversary. In light of this, my older brother, Kyle, and I reflected upon the life lessons our parents have instilled in us over the years. Without getting too nostalgic or saccharine, here is an A-Z list of some of our favorites.
A: Allow for U-turns.
Plans change and interests shift. Be compassionate toward yourself and change direction if need be. High school, college, jobs—these are all evolutionary experiences, and adjustments are sometimes necessary.
B: Be a Good Samaritan.
Be kindhearted, and go out of your way to help others. Do things that make Jesus smile.
C: Character over comfort.
I can't emphasize enough how many times I've heard this phrase. My parents were all about pushing us to do the right thing, do the hard thing, do the uncomfortable thing on our own so that we could learn (rather than them rushing to our aid and fixing all of our problems for us).
D: Doing what's right is probably not the same thing as doing what's popular.
I am such an unabashed rule-follower. Although rules can feel superfluous at times, they usually exist for a reason. And even though blatant defiance is "cool," it's usually not right (unless it is—use your best judgment).
E: Eat your veggies.
...and your fruit! Especially if it comes from the garden.
F: Follow your passions.
During her first year in a biochemistry Ph.D. program, my mom realized that although she liked science, she didn't love it. Prior to college, her parents told her she could only pursue math or science, even though her real passion was writing. So when I wanted to change majors (and then change schools), she was nothing but supportive.
G: Gossip is destructive.
Stick up for others, change the subject, and walk away if need be. Gossip isn't worth the repercussions.
H: Hold others to a high standard.
Sometimes my brother and I can take this to extremes, but for good reason. Build a community of accountability. Hold yourself to a high standard, humbly accepting critiques on your poor judgment and actions, and do the same for those around you. Push one another to be better.
I: Intentionality makes for strong relationships.
Back your words and actions in careful thought and lots of love, and watch your relationships grow deeper and stronger.
J: Jump on opportunities.
Admittedly, my brother is much better at this than I am (I am much more cautious, which comes with the territory of being an introvert). But when I voiced interest in transferring high schools to the brand new one, trying out for varsity cheerleading, going to college out of state (and subsequently transferring to a college in state), my parents encouraged me to try new things and say "yes."
K: Keep your standards high.
Don't settle—in friendships, academics, jobs, and certainly don't settle in romantic relationships. Keep heart, and keep your standards high.
L: Look for the intention behind words and actions.
Thinking about why people behaved the way they did makes for increased empathy and understanding. Did they have good intentions but bad execution?
M: Make it a great day.
My dad would always say this when he dropped me off for school (that one glorious year in elementary school that I didn't take the school bus). Make it a great day. Actively make your day excellent, rather than passively letting the day happen to you.
N: No TV on weekdays
I was rather unpopular for this in middle school and high school, as I was that one "weird kid" who wasn't up-to-speed on Pretty Little Liars or what have you. My brother and I weren't allowed to watch TV during the school week, which encouraged us to spend our time outside, in the pool, or with our nose in a book. And although I could watch TV on the weekends, I still wasn't up-to-speed on the trendy television shows—I opted for Scooby Doo, Phineas and Ferb, and Lizzie McGuire reruns.
O: Offer kindness.
Be kind, be kind, be kind. It's so simple.
P: Pray unceasingly.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.
Q: Question your motivations.
My brother and I have always been encouraged to be introspective about our motivations. Why did I want to take singing lessons in the seventh grade? Because I loved to sing? Or because I wanted to be Hannah Montana? (It was, undoubtedly, the latter, and the dream didn't last very long.) I ask myself the same questions now. Why do I want to post Picture A on social media? Because I genuinely want to share it with my friends or because I'm searching for attention? Be honest with yourself about your underlying motivations.
R: Remember birthdays.
Send a card. Send a text. One minute of effort can brighten someone's entire day.
S: Send thank you notes.
This was such a strictly enforced rule in our household that it eventually became second nature to me and my brother. I know that I feel warm and fuzzy inside when someone sends me a thank you note, so I want to extend my gratitude to others.
T: The clock keeps ticking.
I hated my first "real" summer job—working retail at a beachside surf shop. The hours were long, the breaks were short, and the tourists were both plentiful and generally unpleasant. Although I felt lucky to have a job at all, I dreaded going to work every day. My mom reminded me that whether I'm having fun or not, the clock keeps ticking. Even if I was having a lousy time, I could trust that the seconds were still ticking by, one step closer to closing time.
U: Understand the opposing point of view.
Be it small disagreements, political debates, or the world religions, understanding the other side is extremely valuable. While this understanding may help you better argue your case, it can also deepen your feelings of empathy toward the other person/party.
V: Verbalize (“use your words”).
I was, admittedly, a bit of a quiet pouter when I was little. Instead of sticking out my lower lip and sulking, I was encouraged to "use my words" and verbalize what, exactly, was upsetting me. As an INFJ and an HSP, I tend to feel and think deeply and internalize those thoughts and feelings, so the reminder to use my words is still significant.
W: Wear sunscreen.
Growing up in a family of swimmers (sans my dad), slathering up in orange-scented sunscreen was part of the daily regimen (and for good reason: skin cancer runs in the family).
X: Extend compassion.
Push yourself to extend compassion even when it takes a great deal of concentrated effort. In the words of G.K. Chesterton, "it is easy to be heavy, hard to be light." (Can you tell that empathy, compassion, and kindness were the major themes of our childhood lessons?)
Y: Your sibling is your greatest supporter
...and competitor. :-)
Z: (Get your) Zzzzzs!.
Early to bed, early to rise. As you can see in the photo below, we have always taken our naps very seriously (I was three; Kyle was seven).
I love lists. To-do lists, grocery lists, bucket lists, shopping lists—my thoughts feel much more streamlined when they’re written down in neat, little bulleted columns.
And although I can’t deny the convenience of typing away on the notes app on my iPhone, I am overwhelmingly partial to pen and paper. A fresh notebook and an uncapped pen hold the (naïve?) promise that with a few focused minutes of list-making, I can, indeed, create order from chaos. The downside of paper lists, of course, is that they are everywhere. My lists are in my journal, in my philosophy notebook, on the backs of receipts, on sticky notes, and in the margins of my Spanish textbook. They're on the back of the church bulletin, on the back of envelopes, on the back of the Trader Joe’s ad, and on the back of my hand. I am, at my core, a highly organized person, but my proclivity for list-making has been testing my tidiness.
I recently purchased a vintage Pee Chee folder to collect all of my list-y bits and scraps (the same folder that my mom used when she was in high school—I love old fashioned things), and there’s something so satisfying about having all of my papers in one place, neat and accessible. What I need to do, what I want to do, things I’m curious about, things I’m anxious about, people that inspire me—a little rifle through the papers is a little rifle through my mind. It's become a non-linear diary of sorts.
When I compiled my overabundance of lists, I came up with a sort of “best of” collection of all the things, people, and events that I have been enjoying recently. As highly idiosyncratic as “favorites” are, I love to read about them on other people’s blogs or watch them on YouTube, so I'm sharing mine in hopes that it will be just as fun for someone else to read as it was for me to create. Here goes...
For the sartorialist...
Madewell: I'm not particularly passionate about fashion, but I do have a sartorial vice that goes by the name of Madewell. My wardrobe is very small and minimalistic, as I'm drawn more to versatility, fit, and quality than I am to trendiness. Also, I keep my wardrobe edited down to about 40 items maximum, so I can be incredibly picky when I do decide to make a purchase (farewell to the almost perfect jeans that I sent back this week), and I am consequently more willing to spend a little extra money for a well-constructed, practical item. My favorite pieces in my wardrobe from the tomboyishly cool and artfully effortless brand? These magically flattering black pants (currently sold out, unfortunately), this simple bag, and this practical coat (also sold out as of now).
For the intellectual...
MIT Open Courseware classes: On this site, you can access free course materials from 2,260 MIT classes. On my to-do list? Myth, Ritual, and Symbolism; History of Western Thought, 500-1300; Politics and Religion; and Jewish History from Biblical to Modern Times. (Yale has a similar program called Open Yale courses.)
The Illustrated Guide to a Ph.D.: This graphic emphasizes the high degree of specialization that a Ph.D. student pursues and contrasts it with the whole wide world of human knowledge. I'm planning on pursuing a Ph.D. in Religious Studies in the near future, so this graphic was relevant to me, but I think in general it's just humbling to think about the vastness of human knowledge and innovation.
Printable Sudoku Puzzles: I love sudoku so much that it's concerning. Sudoku puzzles make for the perfect study break, as they require concentrated effort but are still very soothing (see, I told you, it's concerning). The rules are simple, and starting out on the "easy" puzzles makes for a luxurious little confidence boost. P.S.: I may or may not have asked for (and was generously given) a book of sudoku puzzles for my 21st birthday. I am a very wild 21-year-old, can't you tell?
Monica Lewinsky's TED Talk: I highly recommend watching Monica's TED talk (TED standing for Technology, Education, and Design) on cyberbullying and her experiences as a scapegoat (she even mentions how many rap songs that her name appears in, which is just so saddening). She is a skilled public speaker, and her message about cyberbullying is both powerful and heartbreaking (I told myself I wouldn't cry, but I did). If you click on anything from this list, please watch this.
Cal Newport's Blog: I have been reading Cal Newport's blog for at least five years, so I don't even remember how I stumbled across it (but I'm glad I did). On his blog, Newport explores concepts like deep habits, focus, and efficiency as they relate to school and work. He received his Ph.D. from MIT and is currently an Assistant Professor of Computer Science at Georgetown University, specializing in the theory of distributed algorithms. He also has written a few books, with his latest being So Good They Can't Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love.
For the old soul...
The Invention of Teenagers: LIFE and the Triumph of Youth Culture: This article explores the creation and evolution of "American teenaged culture" in the 1940s. After you read the article, don't forget to scroll through the slideshow at the top of the page (Image 14 is my favorite, by far). As an old soul, this had me dreaming of what my life would have been like seventy years ago.
For the adventurer...
Imagining the Universe: Cosmology in Art and Science: If you enjoy outer space, science, and art, or dreamed about being an astronaut when you were little, you'll love seeing how these topics relate. (Make sure you spend some time zooming in on the moon—I thought that was nifty.)
Autocamp: Santa Barbara's "Autocamp" is a boutique airstream hotel that is so darn hip and cute. They also have soon-to-be-open locations in Los Angeles, Ventura, and San Francisco. I love seeing how hotels are becoming increasingly innovative and funky—they don't all have to be characterized by ugly carpet and low-quality chocolate chip cookies.
For the bookworm...
Snacks of the Great Scribblers: This New York Times sketch illustrates the not-so-normal snacks of choice of some of the world's greatest writers. I think I would get along quite well with Michael Pollan, Joyce Maynard, and Emily Dickinson.
J.K. Rowling's Hagrid Hut: J.K. Rowling is building a replica of Hagrid's hut in her yard in Scotland. Some have speculated that this will be where she'll work on the screenplay for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which, I might add, I am so excited for, the unabashed Harry Potter fan that I am. Additional and slightly related side note: I love asking people which Harry Potter house they see themselves in and who their favorite character is. Harry Potter is a great way to get to know a person—I would definitely be a Hufflepuff, and I see myself as a hybrid mix of Hermione and Neville.
For the entrepreneur...
The Daily Routines of Famous Creative People: This infographic illustrates how some of the most famous creative people structure(ed) their days. I sent this to my brother (a self-proclaimed creative), and he loved it, so naturally you will too.
Kinfolk: Issue 15, The Entrepreneurs Issue, focuses on the spirit of entrepreneurship in the workplace and seeks to encourage a healthier work-and-leisure balance than what is currently the norm. In general, I love this magazine company for its depth and attention to aesthetics.
#The100DayProject: 100 days of creating more than we consume. Whether it's coding, writing, photography, whatever, this is a cool project that encourages diving deeper into your craft and making time for it every single day.
For the artist...
Nobody Likes Me (Street Art): This street art is ridiculously cool, and I think there's a lot of meaning we can glean from this piece regarding self-esteem and attention span. I do think that the typical Millennial's sense of self-esteem has grown dependent on a constant influx of social media notifications and positive reinforcement (speaking to the common phrase "technology is a good servant but a bad master"). Also, the age of the subject is concerning (on purpose, I think), sparking a discussion on what age is appropriate for cell phones and social media. It already has me thinking about at what age my future child will have a phone—I hope to be the parent that facilitates outdoor and imaginative play over apps and computer games.
For the spiritual...
Bible Journaling: I love that art can be a form of worship. Bible journaling weaves creativity into daily "quiet time," as beautifully demonstrated by Shanna Noel on her site Illustrated Faith. If you're a Christian with a love for painting, drawing, or calligraphy, you will probably love this. As a creative and Jesus-loving person that hates coloring "inside of the lines," I really connected with the freedom and deep, spiritual purpose of Bible Journaling.
I’m frequently asked why I study the world religions. Isn't it enough to know the ins and outs of my own faith? Why bother studying a religion whose far-flung adherents live hundreds of thousands of long and ocean-drenched miles away?
How on earth are the 613 mitzvoth, or commandments, of Judaism relevant to me? Why would I ever need to know Buddha’s Four Noble Truths or the Eight-Fold Path? And besides, isn’t that dangerous to learn about other faiths? Doesn’t it put my own in jeopardy?
Some of those questions are harder to answer than others, especially when I’m just taken aback from being asked them, sputtering and trying to formulate an answer that is probably, in the asker’s mind, already the wrong one. But for starters, no, it is not “enough” for me to just know my religion. Before you decide how offended you need to be, kindly let me explain. On a spiritual level, yes, it is enough for me to know just the ins and outs of my religion. Christ is enough. His grace is enough. His love is enough. As a Christian, I believe wholeheartedly that Jesus died on the cross to save me from myself and my sin in order to give me the unfathomably amazing chance to spend eternity with Him.
But on an academic level, no, it is not enough for me to just know my religion. I need to understand more than my own little sliver of the world.
Huston Smith, a big name in the Religious Studies world (yes, there is such a thing), once wrote that the greatest reason for studying the world religions is “to enjoy the wider angle the vision affords.” He continues: “I am, of course, speaking metaphorically of vision and view, but an analogue from ocular sight fits perfectly. Without two eyes—binocular vision—there is no awareness of space’s third dimension. Until sight converges from more than one angle, the world looks as flat as a postcard. The rewards of having two eyes are practical; they keep us from bumping into chairs and enable us to judge the speed of approaching cars. But the final reward is the deepened view of the world itself—the panoramas that unroll before us, the vistas that extend from our feet. It is the same with ‘the eye of the soul,’ as Plato called it. ‘What do they know of England, who only England know?’”
Religion is the pulse that beats through our lives, veins, and hearts. It underpins politics, economics, relationships, and hardships. Religion soothes and shatters, heals and harms. It is quite possibly the most highly polarizing topic, and for good reason—it’s central to the human experience. Even those who don’t adhere to a particular religion or don’t believe in God or any sort of higher power are impacted by religion every day. Political decisions, laws, literature—if you listen hard enough, you can hear religion’s heartbeat, however muffled or emphatic, in every moment.
So why is this? Why does religion seep into every aspect of our lives? It’s because religion is alive.
“[Religion exists] not as a dull habit but as an acute fever. It is about religion alive. And when religion jumps to life it displays a startling quality. It takes over. All else, while not silenced, becomes subdued and thrown into a supporting role” (Smith).
Even when subdued, religion is still pulsating quietly. It’s pulsating in public schools. It’s pulsating in politics. And it is certainly pulsating in more places than just Christian churches. That’s the crux of it—to study the world religions is to realize the power and prevalence of religion, but also to recognize its global role and role outside of my own religious experience. The religious texture of the world is undeniable; to shield myself from the religions of the world is to, like Huston Smith’s metaphor, live with monocular vision, not unlike a horse with blinders, living safely but small-mindedly in a world “as flat as a postcard.”
Religion, of course, has its sharp edges. The media makes sure we’re aware of that much, pandering (unabashedly) to an entertainment-worshiping society. After all, “the full story of religion is not rose-colored; often it is crude. Wisdom and charity are intermittent, and the net result is profoundly ambiguous” (Smith). And it's easy to dwell on the darkness. As G.K. Chesterton said, "it is easy to be heavy: hard to be light"—a profound and paradoxical truth.
But religion also provides a sense of purpose, and the ability to glean meaning out of madness and comfort from chaos. It’s what drenches our earth in color, nurtures our tired hearts, and guides our steps. We can lose our health and our homes, our jobs and finances and friends, but in the face of uncontrollable circumstance, we can hold religion as tightly to our chests as we wish.
It is, in essence, all we really have.
1. Finals are [finally] over:
After taking six finals (six finals...21 units was rough this semester), I am relieved to be free of the burden that is finals week. I don’t mind school (okay... I actually love school), but I do suffer from mild bouts of test anxiety and a (not-so-mild) case of perfectionism, making for a stressful testing situation. Of course, most of the relief comes when the grades are finally in the books and submitted, but being able to have free time now is exhilarating. I love waking up in the morning and thinking, “So Rachel, what shall we do today? Surfing? Baking? Peruse cute neighborhoods? Take a road trip?"
2. The weather turns drippy and cold:
Living on the California coast means that we have a 0% chance of snow (unlike the many ice and snow storms I got caught in when I went to school in Texas). Despite the snowless forecast, I love winter on the coast because the sky turns grey, and the weather gets “cold” (think mid 50s-60s) and rainy—perfect for curling up by the fireplace with an old Nancy Drew book and a mug of decaf.
3. Decorating the house:
I love nesting—carving out my own little niche wherever I am. I’ve moved several times over the last few years, which has helped me fine tune this nesting habit. One of the sweet parts about the Christmas season is getting to unload the (several) dozen plastic boxes from the attic or garage, as I put those skills to use and transform the home. With warm, rich tones and soft fabrics, the house becomes cozy and inviting during December.
4. Wrapping gifts:
As a creative little soul, I am always searching for projects (today I painted black chalkboard paint on a wood slab...). And though gifts are absolutely not the foundation of the Christmas season, I love being tasked with wrapping. Patterned paper, endless supplies of pens, ribbons, and tags... drool. I think I’ve asked my mom every day for the past two weeks if she needs anything wrapped. ("Brown paper packages tied up with strings, these are a few of my favorite things...") My fondness for detail means that all of the gifts match, ornamented with sprigs of pine needles or tied up neatly with burlap twine. So satisfying.
5. Christmas music (on repeat):
I’m one of those people that listens to Christmas music all year long. I definitely have a lot of friends that are opposed to this, but from my layman’s perspective (Polar Express reference), celebrating Christ’s birth through song should happen all year. I love sitting down to the piano or grabbing my guitar and pouring my heart into Little Drummer Boy or The First Noel. Christmas music is classic and pure; the soft sounds of Sally Harmon's Cozy Christmas instantly warm my heart and the home.
6. Light, light, light:
I’m scared of the dark (admittedly). But falling asleep to the subtle twinkling of the neighbor’s Christmas lights or going down for a snack at night and being greeted by the glittering Christmas tree is incredibly soothing.
7. Christmas newsletters:
My family sends one out every year; each person in the family writes a few sentences about what’s been going on in their life the past year, and we slap it all together on cute paper and add a letterpress Christmas card. It’s so neat to get Christmas newsletters in the mail from friends and family both near and far. Since I have moved so much (and I don’t have a Facebook), it’s a little harder to keep up with past neighbors, elementary school friends, old sports coaches, etc. But the sweet thing about a newsletter is the small, albeit significant, effort to stay connected at least once a year—to share the joys and triumphs and delight in friendship.
8. Advent calendars:
A piece of chocolate every day keeps the sadness away.
9. [Old] Christmas movies:
I don’t really like movies... my inattentive ADHD + highly sensitive soul + hatred of any sort of conflict (even just in a movie plot) means that movies are not my favorite thing, but my favorite movies happen to be Christmas ones (and are played all month on ABC Family’s 25 Days of Christmas). My all-time favorite is Eloise at Christmastime—Julie Andrews, Gavin Creel (I would quite like to marry his character, Bill), Christine Baranski (Martha May Whovier in How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Cinderella’s stepmother in Into the Woods, Tanya in Mamma Mia, etc.), and Sofia Vassilieva make for an incredible cast. Also, one of the main character’s names is Rachel, which makes me very, very happy. Did I mention the movie is set in the 50s? Swoon.
10. Quiet time:
Because of item one—no more finals—I finally have time for quiet, soul-nourishing, time-consuming activities like puzzles and baking and painting. Happy heart.
11. Christmas Eve Festivities:
My family is Norwegian, so our Christmas celebration is a little different than that of other American families. As is tradition, after church we eat dinner (tacos... not sure where that came from) then open all of our presents under the tree—Christmas Eve is our “main” Christmas celebration. On Christmas day we open our stockings, have brunch with family, and spend the rest of the day together (usually in pajamas). One of the things I love about the holiday season is that it makes me feel connected to my past; by upholding our Norwegian traditions generations after my great-great-grandparents immigrated from Norway (and great-grandparents from Italy), I’m reminded of where I came from. (Fun fact: On the Italian side of the family, my great-grandfather never even learned how to read and write in English! E' pazzesco... that's crazy!)
The alpha, omega, beginning, and end, He very well could have been numbers 1-12 on this list. Christmas has become increasingly commercialized—Santa Claus and his elves, though a lovely symbol of generosity and love, have overpowered the Christmas season, shrouding the real reason we celebrate. I was shocked the other day whilst watching the old Lizzie McGuire episode where Lizzie is building her Christmas float. She forgets what Christmas is all about, and her brother Matt quotes the book of Luke (as does Linus in the Charlie Brown Christmas Movie). I was surprised in the best way that the gospel was on Disney Channel, even though the episode was also laden with images of Santa Claus (played by Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler, no less). The sad part, though, is that I don’t think that would happen on any mainstream TV show in 2014. But I hope, hope, hope it will. Christ our Lord is the reason for the season.
“ ...And that’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”
Life is messy, but here's what I know so far...
1. “There is nothing wrong with loving the crap out of everything. Negative people find their walls. So never apologize for your enthusiasm.” | R. Adams
Negativity is draining. It’s human nature to slip into sourness and (shamefully) take it out on those around us. But because of the complexities of the human mind, changing your thoughts is possible. Gently step back from your next negative/hectic/stressful situation (sometimes physically) and reframe. How could this experience help you? Stretch you? Lead you? Next time negativity comes knocking, kick it out of your mind.
2. “I have sea foam in my veins; I understand the language of waves.” | J. Cocteau
I grew up on the coast and had a happy, sea-salty childhood studded with camping and kayaks, boogie boards and wetsuits. My weekends consisted of watching my brother compete in rough water swims, or donning a snappy one-piece for my own swim meets. A towel and swimsuit took up permanent residence in the trunk of my car by the time I was sixteen (for spontaneous beach trips). And at age seventeen I was baptized in the ocean with one of my best friends, redeemed by God’s grace and humbled by his vast, oceanic creation. Then came eighteen—Texas. No nearby ocean. No tide pools to wade in, dolphins to swim with, or shells to collect. When I returned to the California coast two years later, the ocean welcomed me with open arms. It was only once I left that I realized how much the ocean means to me. Find your happy place.
3. “We have a tendency to want the other person to be a finished product while we give ourselves the grace to evolve.” | T. D. Jakes
As a sensitive old soul, I often set really high expectations for my friends/family/teachers/etc. and can’t help but be disappointed when said people don’t live up to said expectations. I don’t think the error is (always...) in my high expectations, but in failing to forgive easily. I need to be more generous in handing out my forgiveness. I can get a teensy bit upset when a cashier doesn’t smile at me, or when the secretary at the doctor’s office snaps at me on the phone! Although they need to read #1, I need to exercise tenderness and grace. We're all only human.
4. “Instructions for living a life: Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.” | M. Oliver
Boys boys boys. Most girls want a guy that's honest, charming, funny, and blah, blah, blah... All of that is excellent, but you know what I really love? Curiosity. And not in a gossipy shallow way, but in a thirst-for-knowledge way. Curiosity is the desire to know how to do things. How a gadget works. Why whales migrate. What someone else's stance on carbon emission is. Curiosity enriches our lives as we learn from our neighbors, share our own experiences, and delight in the sweetness of learning something new.
5. “We draw people to Christ not by loudly discrediting what they believe, by telling them how wrong they are and how right we are, but by showing them a light that is so lovely that they want with all their hearts to know the source of it.” | M. L’Engle
This lesson is challenging because discrediting other people or pointing fingers is often our automatic response (even if only in our minds). As a (world) religions major in college, I've been stretched and tested on a daily basis, studying other faiths and learning from/alongside people with different beliefs than my own. The gritty truth? It's hard. I remember calling my parents after my first world religions class, because I was having trouble relating to the diverse faiths in the classroom (present in both my classmates and in the textbook). But now, that's actually why I love studying all of the religions of the world—understanding other people and cultures is difficult without exploring the rhythm of faith that beats through their lives and hearts. As a Christian, I want to follow Christ with a servant's heart and act in a way that would make God proud.
6. “You can never get enough of nature. To be surrounded by it is to be stilled. It salves the heart. The mountains, the trees, the endless plains. The moon, the myriad of stars. Every man can be made quiet and complete." | A. Burns
I love being outside. If I could live in one of those open-air homes in Bali (outdoors and indoors at the same time!), I would. Even my best thinking (sometimes brooding) is done outside, as my feet lead me from one place to the next. I think just feeling the sun and wind on my skin and the grass or pavement under my toes makes me feel connected. Nature is humbling—I realize I'm only a small fragment of His creation. In my oceanography summer school class, we learned that over 70% of the Earth is covered by water—as if I didn't feel tiny and wonderfully overwhelmed enough by the 30% of the Earth that is land! As my favorite Vietnamese Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, says, "walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet." Side note: does everybody have a favorite Vietnamese Buddhist monk?
7. “May you live like the lotus—at ease in muddy water.” | Buddha
In my childhood home, we had a huge koi pond beside the front door. Though the water itself was sometimes vile, the pond was my favorite part of the house (except for the bird aviary... more on that another time). The koi fish were each over a foot long, and one of them was in love with my brother—if he stuck his finger in the water, the fish would "kiss" it and not let go (oh, the memories). The pond attracted Snowy Egrets, raccoons, Blue Herons, and most of the passing by neighbors. But the most incredible part of it all emerged in May through September, when the water lilies bloomed. From the brownish-green, gunky water sprouted the most incredible pink and white and yellow blooms. And that's really the magic of it—the lotus will only grow up through the mud (though water lilies and lotus flowers are not the same to a botanist, they grow in the same conditions). We can only flourish by growing up through our own mud: the little annoyances, the big challenges, the life-threatening situations and the stubbed toes alike. Live like the lotus and embrace your circumstances. Learn from your mud. Grow from your mud.
8. “Be careful who you open up to. Only a few truly care—the rest are just curious.” | Unknown
Remember the little distinction I made in #4? Curiosity comes in many forms, and it's important to realize that not everyone has sparkling intentions. Although this seems like a lesson learned in high school halls, I think this is one of those gritty, uncomfortable learning experiences that we all face more than once. It may be someone at work, in class, in your club/sport/group/whatever—some people seem to prey on secrets and feelings and vulnerability. Guard your heart (Proverbs 4:23), but don't shield it from those who truly love you. Be discerning.
9. “You have more to do than be weighed down by pretty or beautiful. You are a fiery heart and a wicked brain. Do not let your soul be defined by its shell.” | M.K.
As Ann Voskamp said, "Please hear me, Girl: The world has enough women who know how to do their hair. It needs women who know how to do hard and holy things." You're more than lipstick. You aren't the frivolous, frolicking, fairytale princess that the world assumes you are and should be. You're a kick-butt, get-things-done, selfless, brilliant, fiery kind of gal. (Or maybe you're a male reading this. You rock too.)
10. “I used to wonder why I was busting my ass at calculus when I was interested in the arts, but I felt that there was a relationship between working hard at school and taking your dreams seriously. I still think that if you’re excited about something, you have to work at it.” | E. Koenig
I love school. I am, as Elizabeth Gilbert once wrote, "such a shameless student." The hand-raising, correct-the-textbook's-punctuation, set-out-an-outfit-before-bed type. Growing up, I was an okay student grade-wise, making As and Bs, with each report card praising my "citizenship" instead of my academic abilities. I felt like I had to try so much harder than all of the other kids: middle school homework would take me six or seven hours, I couldn't write notes fast enough in high school, and I had no real motivation other than to "get good grades" so I could "get into a good college." What's worse, my older brother was a superhuman student (Who manages to get only one B in an entire college career?! And it was actually a B+...). Luckily, there was a shift in the universe. It wasn't until college that I loved learning. Yes, I still think tests are scary and a red correcting pen is the devil's writing utensil of choice, but there is so much joy in knowledge! Books and documentaries, classes and speeches! I wanted to gobble up all of the facts and poems and paintings like a glutton. Working hard and appreciating subjects outside of your career path can be enlightening and can help prepare you for that disinteresting task you have to do/that internship that you don't love but want to stick with/etc.
11. “Our willingness to wait reveals the value we place on the object we’re waiting for.” | C. Stanley (Isiah 64:4)
Patience is my Achille's heel. Learning to wait on the Lord is somewhat of a work in progress. I hate the unknown (anxious person problems) and always want to be in control of situations. Since my leap out of one university in Texas and into uncharted waters, God is making sure I'm getting my fair share of practice.
12. “Being positive in a negative situation is not naïve. It’s leadership.” | R. Marston
Last Thanksgiving break, I found myself on an extremely turbulent flight back to my university. The plane was lurching and dropping in the air (planes ride in the air like boats do in the water. There are currents both good and bad...according to the pilot), and everyone was screaming. My little soul didn't know what to do, so I ended up holding hands with the woman next to me as we prayed and tried to comfort her little dog. "Jesus has given the pilot all of the skills he needs to fly this plane," she told her dog. "The pilot is very capable." I was taken aback by her positivity amidst the chaos. Maybe it was more to reassure herself than her pup (who surely had zero clue what was going on besides its little popping ears), but her positivity was leadership in those scary few hours.
13. “They want to see you do well, but never better than them.” | Unknown
I'm convinced that competition is engrained in our genetic makeup. As another one of those "human nature" things, we want to excel more than our peers, even if those peers are loved ones. In high school, there was a girl on my swim team who was both my biggest rival and closest friend in the sport. Every 50 freestyle we would end up 0.1 or 0.2 seconds apart, often with me as the loser (though not always... heheh). I was thrilled that she was doing so well—she was my friend, after all—but I didn't want her to be better than me. For some reason, it hurt more to lose against her since we were friends! With a rather "colorful" background of 10 sports under my belt (thanks, Mom and Dad), I know what it feels like to be the sore loser and to receive the negative energy from a sore loser—neither feel good. Can we just encourage each other? And hold hands? And all be friends? (Perhaps I also have a young soul—probably around kindergarten or preschool-aged—pining for the days of sharing crayons and making friends by sharing my cool big Ticonderoga pencils.)
14. “Be the one who nurtures and builds. Be the one who has an understanding and a forgiving heart—one who looks for the best in people. Leave people better than you found them.” | M. J. Ashton
It's easy to yell at whoever left their stuff on the stairs (Whiskey, my Golden Retriever, is so guilty of this). It's tempting to snap at the cashier who forgot to take the security tag off of your new $200 swimsuit (I've actually been that cashier before...). It's second nature to do a little eye rolling here and there—when parents get a little too micro-managey, when someone in the group project shows up late, or when the professor announces a pop quiz. It's easy to tear people down in these small but significant ways. But you know what's even more significant? Nurturing. Flick the little devil off of your shoulder (à la childhood cartoons) and resist the urge to snap/yell/gossip/whatever. Channel that energy for good. Build someone up. Listen without judgment. Help someone out even when it's inconvenient. To think someone could be left better after meeting you is a very powerful thing.
15. “Settling for less makes you feel less. It actually makes your energy smaller. Deciding to not settle might mean you have to wait longer or challenge the typical, but if you are passionate about what you are creating with your life, the way always appears.” | D. Claudat
Settling and apathy are dangerous drugs. As humans, we're often tempted by the safer option, the easier and faster option, or the higher-paying-yet-horrendously-boring option. Boys, jobs, universities, internships—we're seduced by Settling's instant gratification. But if that boy/job/university/internship isn't everything you've ever dreamed of, pull on your patience pants and be productive in the meantime. Patience is wicked tough, but often worth it.
16. “Be with someone who doesn’t make you want to check your phone.” | Unknown
This is SO big for me. I am so tired of going to dinner with friends only to look around the table and see everyone on their phone. While it feels natural to do a little Twitter scrollin' or to edit Instagram pictures right then and there, this actually sends the message that what's on your little screen is much more important or entertaining than those actually sitting next to you. Be with the people you are physically with at gatherings. When I can feel my phone vibrating in my pocket, it takes 110% of my mind-over-matter powers to ignore. But relationships are worth the agony of missing some notifications. Give people your attention. Be fully present. Set an example for others. And to be frank, when it comes to friends or relationships, you shouldn't even want to check your phone around them! This past weekend I was in San Diego with my two best friends, and although we snapped a few pictures at brunch, we all waited to post until after. Easy peasy.
17. “If you are the smartest person in the room, then you are in the wrong room.” | M. Dell
It feels good to be the smart one. My former university required all students to take a general ed religion class, and since I was a religion major and was bound by this requirement, I excelled times 43,855,245 in the intro-level course. The professor would use my essay as a class example after every exam and everyone wanted to be my partner on group quizzes (though I don't think they even knew my name...boohoo). While it bolstered my self-esteem and confidence in the classroom, pridefulness snuck into the mix. Luckily, every subsequent course had me working harder and harder, humbled when the material no longer came easily to me. That's where the meaningful conversations, stacks of pored-over books, and the feeling of being so small in such a vast chasm of knowledge come into play. That's where the growth happens. (Growth seems to be the theme in this season of life.)
18. “I want to think again of dangerous and noble things. To be light and frolicsome. Improbably and beautiful and afraid of nothing as though I had wings.” | M. Oliver
I don't know if it's possible to change personality types while growing up, or if the "Type A and B" theory is even accurate, but I've always been a B: creative, reflective, and easygoing. By my second year of college, I was the hybrid mix: creative, reflective, driven, perfectionist, workaholic. It may have been the increased responsibilities or newfound passion in school that led me into Type A territory, but recently I've been missing my old "go-with-the-flow" nature. I think what I've gleaned from this is to enjoy every moment of youth—to say yes to adventures, be willing to go exploring, and get out of the monotonous comfort zone. As the 1600s proverb goes, "all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" (James Howell).
19. “The greatest cruelty is our casual blindness to the despair of others.” | J. Straczynski
I received an email once from one of those people. If you've ever read the comment sections on YouTube videos, controversial blog posts, news articles, or celebrity Instagram photos, you'll know exactly what kind of person I mean—they hang around on the internet, search for a vulnerable target, and hit them (hard) with sharp words and painful phrases. The email snarled with harsh opening words, going on to insult me in ways I didn't know possible. The final line of the email? He or she wanted to kindly let me know that no one cares about my stupid, boring life, and that I should really look into writing about something important for once. Particularly the starving kids in Africa. Ouch. Swallowing these words wasn't easy. That kind of speech, funneled to a stranger behind the safety and anonymity of a computer screen, is inhumane. This insensitive, remorseless email was cyber-bullying. I'd hate to sound like a Disney Channel commercial, taking about the dangers of the internet and why bullying is wrong, but my gosh, it's hard to really grasp how much words can hurt until it's directed at you. This experience left me with a whole lot of empathy for anyone who has dealt with cyber-bullying before. And again, it was a character-building experience. With 7.046 billion people on the planet, not everyone is going to like you or me. Pick your battles, say your prayers for the bullies, and "write hard and clear about what hurts" (Hemingway).
20. "To live content with small means—to seek elegance rather than luxury, and refinement rather than fashion, to be worthy, not respectable, and wealthy, not rich—to study hard, think quietly, talk gently, act frankly, to listen to stars and birds, babes and sages, with open heart—to bear all cheerfully—do all bravely, await occasions—never hurry; in a word, to let the spiritual, unbidden and unconscious, grow up through the common. This is to be my symphony." | W. E. Channing
Mr. Channing [note: not Channing Tatum—think 200 years older] is a smart fellow. Not because he was a Harvard grad in the 17th/18th century, but because of his awareness of what's actually meaningful and essential in life. I feel like present-day society is gluttonous, driven by validation, entertainment, and shock-value. And it's easy to be seduced by fancy cars, night life, and lavish clothes—but does it really matter? They're just things. Man-made things. The real treasures are in the moments, the relationships, the laughs and tears, and the things that GOD cares about.
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.
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.
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,
“And so you plant your own garden and decorate your own soul, instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers.” | V. Shoffstall, After a While
I’ve always loved February 14th. I like pink and chocolate (& pink chocolate), flowers and stacks of love-laden cards.
I loved Valentine’s Day in elementary school. It was so exciting and so sweetly innocent. We would all cover little shoeboxes with wrapping paper and carry them proudly in the crook of our elbows, other arm lugging candy-stuffed valentines (one for everyone in the class—that was the rule) in a giant plastic baggie. The teacher would give us an entire afternoon to parade around the classroom, dropping candy into each other’s boxes, simultaneously nibbling heart-shaped cookies and giggling over “who likes who.”
The best was the first grade. My mom sewed me a beautiful dress with a swishy hemline to wear to school on Valentine’s Day. There were puffy sleeves, white pearl buttons and little white hearts peppered on the red cotton. There was a special assembly that day, where the police came to talk about “fighting bad guys,” and I was privileged enough to be picked to sit in the police car (as an envious crowd looked on). It really was the best day ever.
In later years, when my perfect little dress was passed onto a neighbor or folded neatly in a box, I still wore pink or red to school on February 14th, bringing with me a bulging bag of valentines and a huge smile.
I am a romantic when it comes to life, and unabashedly so. I have a soft and sensitive heart and a curious mind. I love making small moments special, and delighting in the little things—sunshine on the pavement, fresh-cut tulips, a sandwich wrapped in wax paper and tied with baker’s twine. If I could paint the interiors of my mind, it would be saturated with a happy and sunny yellow, with touches of seafoam green and big, joyful splashes of pink.
I love loving others and making small efforts to bring them joy. I love loving the little things in life. I love loving God because He is so gentle with me, and the Holy Spirit because it/He (let’s get theological, friends!) is what fills me with peace and joy and a zest for life when I make the conscious effort to both pray and praise. I love my parents and friends, professors and major. I love my beachy home and Texas sweet tea.
There are little pieces of my heart all over the world; I love a lot of people and places and things...but I don’t love romantic love.
I’ve always been comfortable being independent. I’ve dated, but never seriously, and singleness has always brought a genuine sense of relief. Once I settled into college life and had close friends and sorority sisters who were, gulp, engaged, my glorification of independence started to chip and crumble. Did I need someone else? I was, for the first time in a long time, questioning whether or not I was behind in the rat race of romance. My soft heart, once rooted in self-reliance, and saturated with patience, confidence, and trust in God’s plan, began to feel a little bit bruised and a lot a bit sad.
Once in college, wearing pink on Valentine’s Day didn’t bring me the same joy. While neighbors in the dorms received elaborate rose bouquets from loving boyfriends near and far, I had a brown paper box from my mom filled with treats and bits of home, and my family’s comforting words to cling to. I remember wondering how in the world everyone got so...grown up. Did I miss some crucial step in the aging process that would fashion me into an adult, stripping me of my pink-wearing, valentine-making, mom-loving nature?
The feeling lingered, drifting into the following year and colonizing the present moment. I already made valentines, and I still plan on wearing pink, but I have been dreading Friday’s festivities—or lack of festivities—for the past two weeks. My heart has been a little glum and (always) anxious. While I have always taken comfort in giving my other anxieties to God, turning to Him about romantic love felt unimportant and just embarrassing. Where would I begin?
Thank God for God. He saw me wrestling with my thoughts. “My daughter,” he said fondly, holding my hand. “I will love you more than any man—any boy—ever can. Run to my arms. If you let me, I can be all you need.” We talked for a while. It wasn’t pretty at first—there were frustrated prayers and anxious tears. When I no longer had words for the overflowing, overwhelming feelings that were bubbling up, I took pen to paper.
The ink became thread, stitching together letters to explain the feelings I couldn’t verbalize. The words became a sea, swirling around my knees. The pen became my avenue to God. The page became His invitation to the wild soiree in my heart.
And then He hugged me. My entire body felt like it had been soaked in a warm lavender bath, or enveloped by a blanket from the dryer, warmth still lingering. I no longer had to—have to—limp along alone. Since Sunday school, I’ve known he is “with” me, as He is omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient. What I didn’t grasp was that he is actually with me, a coalescence of the compassionate King and his humble servant. He is with me because his spirit fills me. It’s this radical, boundless love that reminds me I don’t need to be independent or romantically linked. I don’t have to be anything but His daughter. I am the daughter of a King who is not moved by the world. For my God is with me and goes before me. I do not fear because I am His.
“Dance with God and He'll let the perfect man cut in.”
Happy Valentine's Day (week?), friend.
...And now I feel like wearing pink.
There is so much controversy in this.
The Shack by William P. Young is easily one of my favorite books. It’s extremely controversial, although I even feel that “extremely” isn’t even extreme enough. It’s a polar book that somehow thrusts you on one side or the other (yay or neigh) as soon as you hit the first page. You hate the book—and vehemently so—or you are enamored by its warmth and delight in its fictitious yet scripture-based plot and characters. Quite obviously, I am a wholehearted fan of the book. Just by Googling the title, you’ll be faced with a plethora of full-blown theological arguments. Seemingly safe on the other side of the monitor, you lean into your screen to better read the arguments in tandem, drenched in vehement hatred and offense. Your nose is licked by the flames of hostility as you peer into the screen, and look on at the total mayhem that this book has crafted.
While I’ve written about my wringing fear regarding writing on controversial topics, I unabashedly adore reading such. My second favorite book? The Da Vinci Code, which was deemed a major threat to the church both within the realm of the plot and in reality. My third is May Cause Miracles, which was written by a modern-day yogi with a handful of beliefs that I strongly oppose.
To read—eyes skimming across a page and mind soaking in concepts—doesn’t mean to subsequently and blindly believe. I think that’s absolutely imperative to understand, especially since I study English and Religion, thus shoving me into the trenches of controversial literature, articles, and opinions. It has become essential, especially on a college campus and even more specifically within the realm of studying religion, for me to be inquisitive, to research, to pray, to formulate what I believe, and to be unwavering in that.
I believe in a God that loves me sincerely and passionately.
My heart overflows with my adoration for Him. I believe that Christ, his son, died on the cross for my sins, thus gifting me with His perfect promise of eternal life. I believe in His grace. I believe that I am horribly unworthy, but through the thorns on his forehead and the blood that he shed, I am made clean. I believe in a God that is sovereign and holy and just. I believe in a God that loves you. Sincerely and passionately.
In The Shack, Young follows the story of a man whose little daughter was violently murdered in an abandoned shack while the family was camping by the lake. The story strings along the man’s skepticism toward God, as well as a tender, heart wrenching journey toward recovery, coupled with the recovery and faith journey of the man’s wife, who rests in an intimate relationship with the Lord and warmly refers to Him as “Papa.” Eventually within the book, the man spends a weekend at said shack, where God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit come to meet him.
If we weren’t already there, here comes the controversy: God is portrayed as a large, sassy and spirited black woman, who goes by Papa, and is “especially fond” of all her children. Through a weekend of gentle interaction, testing conversations and a continuous trust mêlée, the man’s bruised soul is healed and replenished by the Lord. Papa explains:
“My purposes are not for my comfort, or yours. My purpose are always and only an expression of love. I purpose to work life out of death, to bring freedom out of brokenness and turn darkness into light. What you see as chaos, I see as a fractal. All things must unfold, even though it puts all those I love in the midst of a world of horrible tragedies—even the one closest to me.”
I love all of the separate characters equally (which really is a mind-bending concept, as they are the representation of the Holy Trinity, and thus are one, while being separate. Human minds cannot fathom.). However, the Holy Spirit’s character really resonated with me. Described as a small Asian woman, Sarayu is easier to see out of the corner of the eye than head on. She sort of flutters in the wind—there, but not completely—and utilizes soft and gentle interactions to bring about radical realizations and understanding. It’s a beautiful depiction of the Spirit. She leads the man to understanding why he is so incapable and broken on his own:
With a warm smile and friendly eyes, the crooks in his soft flannel shirt contain traces of sawdust, and the warm and worn palms of his hands hold the trace of very real scars.
Jesus is Jesus. Lying on their backs in the grass, Jesus and the man listen the lapping lake waves and speak of increasingly tender and pain-rimmed topics while gazing at the stars.
I don’t mean for this to be a book talk (à la 6th grade reading class), but the book has been on my heart, and clattering around the caverns of my mind all week. I think God put it on my heart to just open up conversation. I truly don’t think that the controversy or the characters or the author are the point. Instead, it’s how saturated and full of love the Lord is, and how he drenches us and blankets us and pours over us this radical, sweet, perfect love.
Perhaps the key is within character Jesus’ last thought—grow in loving people. Harvest the love and pass it on. Pull a Matthew 5:16 and be a light. Share Christ’s love as He shared it with you. Spread the joy. Spread the Word. But even when others don’t want to be convinced that they’re loved so deeply by the One who died to save us, “you are free to love without an agenda.”
Pass it on.
All quotes from William P. Young’s The Shack
I am an old soul. While I would also classify myself as a learner and future focused, there are parts of my heart and mind that are firmly rooted in some other soda-parlor, rotary-telephone, saddle-shoe world that I’ve never experienced but always pined for.
Back in February, I wrote about my quirky interest in all things old fashioned:
I belong in the generation of ice cream parlors, soda fountains, and drive-in movies. I want red lipstick and patent heels, a powdered nose and bobby-pinned curls. I crave letters with wax seals, vintage stamps, postmen that walk house-to-house, and mint green convertibles. I so badly want to know how my mind would work without the constant vibration of my iPhone or the siren call of my Mac. I want the simplicity of spending time with the “gals” without the constant distraction of “he texted me this,” or “she tweeted that.” I want to go to the library to do my schoolwork, dutifully researching in books, not Google. I want a flower box and a window seat, with Saturday morning sunlight streaming into my bedroom. I want to wear an apron when I bake, and sit around the fire with family to listen to the radio... I want him to hold my hand and kiss me goodnight on the porch. I want to order one milkshake, two straws (he pays). I want to pull my hair back with a barrette, call blush “rouge” and be allowed to wear a dab of mom’s perfume on special occasions. I want pearls and oxfords. I want matching striped pajamas, and my mom to turn my bed down for me every evening. I want lace-rimmed socks, thick reading glasses, a stack of books, and a reading lamp by my bed.
I belong in a different generation.
Specifically within February’s post, I spoke of how I craved a life without the constant vibration of my cell phone. This individual thought has metastasized over the last two years.
I absolutely crave creativity, and have a vested interest in entrepreneurship, innovation and progress. I’m naturally curious about everything, and was taught at an extremely young age to be gutsy (though it's not in my nature), to question everything and to think critically. I love technology and the blessings that flow from it; being able to speak daily with my family and best friends back in California is a joy (fun fact: my best friend Kelsey is the one who named this blog two years ago!). The concept of email is simplistic—send this body of text to another—yet brilliant. Sometimes I have to force myself to take a step back and breathlessly gape at the convenience of being able to instantly communicate when face-to-face connection just isn’t possible. There is a perfect fluency to clicking on one article to the next, saturating myself in knowledge, events, and ideas harvested worldwide.
There’s just one thing that I struggle to stay afloat with. I’m just not a texter. Even in middle school (ick, who actually had a good middle school experience?), I was hesitant to engage in the constant text messages and ridiculously foolish-sounding lingo. It’s been eight years since I got my first cell phone and I still feel the same drowning feeling when faced with a sea of unopened texts. Texting is so fragmented. It can be an incredible feat to uncover what someone is actually saying and sift through punctuation clues and emojis and abbreviations—so draining! Texts (and the texters sending them) tend to be quick by nature, as the messages race in and leave me spinning. I can type faster than most (thank you 3rd grade computer class), and could essentially send replies with the same rapidness if I saw it fit. Problem is, I’m a invested reader and deep thinker. I want to fully digest whatever is being told or explained or reiterated to me, turning it over in my mind and making full sense of where I stand. And when my quick-to-listen, slow-to-speak nature isn’t in action (James 1:19 is always the goal) and I’m yet to respond to a text, it’s most likely because I’ve consciously chosen to not bring it on my walk or to class, or I have made the smart choice to not even attempt to text and drive. It’s not to say that I don’t think phones are both advanced and advantageous—I’m not attempting to devalue cell phones at all. I’m just not really attached to this little white rectangle of iOS7 innovation.
Quite frankly, I think my generation’s people skills are rubbish. I hate to use that word because it is so gritty and unforgiving, but I’m tired of spending time with a friend and all he or she is doing is scrolling and scrolling and staring and laughing, eyes glued to the device in hand. It’s unreal how shifty eye contact is these days even with close friends—everyone is longing for the safety of their touchscreen technology to lock eyes with once again. Personally, I see such a stark contrast when I’m in a meeting with an adult rather than someone my own age. Generally with an adult, the eye contact is steady; the topics are various and are stitched with carefully chosen words. There is a certain gratitude stemming from both parties for the other’s full attention. It’s polite, but mostly it’s just expected. Unfortunately, and also generally (controversy is tricky, isn’t it?), I’ve found that conversations with my own peers are disjointed, marked with faux-interest, and bound by a very real inability to make conversation, hold eye contact, utilize body language, think critically, and ask meaningful questions within the realm of face-to-face interaction. This is not to say I’ve mastered the technology-free conversation in the slightest. Especially while writing my frustrations, I see myself in a lot of the scenarios that are streaming through my mind. While for me texting isn’t my devilish, concentration-inhibiting companion, I trip up with the siren call of emails and photos and an endless stream of voicemails (that I really should listen to and sort through).
I guess my personal goal is to find a better balance of my antiquated desire to savor and finesse words, and an unabashed thirst for innovation. While I think there’s a lot of joy that can be harvested from tucking away the cell phone for a while, it would be impractical and arguably unwise of me to call others to try it as well. Instead, I’m going to challenge myself this week to polish the distinction between cell-phone-time and real-people-time. It’s a quest for deeper, meaningful conversations and connections that could easily be missed with my head bent over Instagram as I’m walking to class. I want to sharpen my own communication skills, because the more seamlessly I can communicate with others, the more competent I will be in handling meetings, interviews, friendships, sharing the Gospel, sharing ideas, collaborating and creating.
Put the phone down.
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
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!
I will not be tormented.
The things of this world and the evil ways of those around me will have no effect on my life. Their ways of empty living are shallow, broken, and sinful. While their lives seem filled with glamour and fun, I am the one filled with the richest fulfillment. I am made wealthy by His kindness and love. His healing hand restores my life. It is He who grants me the perfect gifts of eternal life, abounding love, a gentle spirit, and a humble heart. I am cleansed of my failures, freed of my flaws, and restored with an unmatched strength. I will not be afraid. The Lord’s presence is constant; He will never leave me. I am filled with the Holy Spirit, as I am gifted the courage to move forward even when I’m frightened and alone. Today in particular, I was tossed one unfortunate happening after another, resulting in my now frazzled mind, bruised feelings, tired heart, and worn-out spirit. Today my life ripped at the seams. On my own, I would have crumbled long ago. He knows this however, and I know that I’m curled up safely in the palm of His hand at this very moment. He will never let me fall. I am completely enveloped in support, and drenched in His perfect love. My Savior will never give me more than I can handle. He is holding my hand—holding me—and leading me forward.
I will not be defeated.
I have the most precious, holy love on my side. I am strengthened, recharged, restored, and loved. What more could I need? I will rise from the brokenness of this day, seizing the opportunity to reflect His love through my life. Today I will shower others with love and prayer, reflecting His flawless love for us all. Today I will seek comfort in Him, instead of frantically searching for things of this world to grant me peace. Today I will cherish those sweet little blessings that I call friends. Today I will cultivate joy, for I have been given a beautiful, precious life with remarkable opportunities. I am loved unconditionally and eternally—an amazingly impossible concept to wrap my mind around. His grace quiets my heart and mind in times of stress, dissolving the problems of this world. I am left with Him—purely and completely, He is all I have and He is all I need. I am simply a silhouette of myself, but I am filled with compassion, joy, hope, faith, humility, and confidence. My heart overflows with the Holy Spirit’s goodness. It is because of Him that I refuse to sink.