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!

 
rachel1.png
 

I Beg to Differ

While sitting in a composition class one day, a handful of students raised their hands to discuss the current topic: Is letter writing dead?

Upon hearing their perspectives, my heart sank, and my soul was crushed (slightly dramatic…but basically, their answers were beyond disheartening to my English-loving soul). As it was, the majority of my classmates politely scoffed at  the outdated nature of letter writing. Heartbreaking. My classmates must be delirious to not recognize the value of letter writing, I thought to myself, as I classified the responses into three categories: a polite and not extremely vocal scoffing at letter writing (I begged to differ), an impolite and blunt voicing of disgust for pen and paper (I certainly begged to differ), and the final and only seemingly upbeat opinion—mine, of course—that letter writing is an art.

To begin, let me first express the sheer joy that blank sheets of paper and brand new pens give me (if you haven’t seen it yet, read my first post, My Battle with Consistency). If the excitement of a blank page doesn’t completely captivate your entire being, I then question your sanity. The possibilities of a blank sheet are endless; the mind proves fruitful as ideas flood the page (if I don’t switch topics now, this post will become a perpetual illustration of my affection for possibility).

I am an advocate for making even the most insipid, tedious tasks special. Rather than sending off quick emails or texts (for topics that don’t require immediate attention due to the not-so-rapid nature of letters), I choose to sit comfortably, retrieving a little blue box from my bookshelf. The insides of the box are saturated with hints of colored sealing wax, drips of ink escaping from well-loved pens, colorful envelopes, and stacks of homemade paper of varying textures and hues. However, being that this box belongs to me, there is order, despite a first impression of creative chaos. Each stick of sealing wax is tucked neatly into old, wax-paper pockets meant to store photographic film. Letters received are stacked in chronological order. Postage stamps are organized by price. Wax-seal stamps sit proudly in one corner of the box, arranged by height of handle.

I carefully sift through neat stacks of paper and envelopes before choosing a complementary pair. I seek out my most beloved pen (although, I am currently saving loose change to buy myself a beautiful wooden or marble dipping pen… Check out the ones I’ve been recently pining for at Nostalgic Impressions). Carefully, methodically, cautiously, I copy down the recipient’s address on the outside of the envelope, avoiding any misspellings or errors. There is no backspace button for handwritten letters; correction fluid on colored paper is tacky and fountain pen ink quite permanent. Each stroke of the pen must therefore be intentional. Each word must be meant entirely.

That’s the beauty behind letters; they are strikingly different than quick text messages, ill-thought-out emails, or even the spoken word, which is tossed around so carelessly with such loose meaning. Letters have a special value and worth that not only delights the recipient but satisfies the writer.

Besides the extensive thought put into the writing of a letter, the best part of the “letter experience” is the final step–sealing. In my eyes, I am sealing away my thoughts safely, as warm wax slowly drips onto the envelope. It, again, is a methodical, timely step that is representative of craftsmanship and personality. I moisten the metal of my insignia as I let the wax cool for a few moments I quickly press the insignia firmly into the small puddle of richly colored wax, leaving, in a sense, a lavish fingerprint.