Saturday, December 31, 2011

Lessons learned, part 2.

(Here's part two of my list of lessons learned in 2011! If you missed the first half, check it out here.)

7. Hope: Even if He does not.
Hope is tricky. It's such a good thing, yet it is so easy to place it in the wrong things. For months, I've had to ask myself: is my hope in God Himself or in what He can do for me? It's a very fine line to walk. I've had to come to a place where I can say, "Yes, this is what I want to happen, and I believe that You can do it, but my hope is in You. Even if You don't, I'm still going to trust You and follow You as if nothing has changed." That's something I have to convince myself of every single day.

8. Certain joy found only in pain.
Every season of life has its good and bad sides. The happy times are wonderful, of course, but they bring certain challenges that aren't found at other times. In the same way, the hardest times bring certain joys that are found only there. I've had to learn to be thankful, not in spite of the bad times, but because of them. It's not always about pushing through to the other side; I've had to learn to see the beauty in the moment I'm in right now--even if it's painful.

9. Letting go.
This has probably been one of the most excruciating lessons I've ever learned, but one I am unbelievably relieved to have finally gotten through my head (well, still working on it, anyway. Like I said before, this is definitely all a process)! I never realized how much of a control freak I am, not to mention how much damage it can cause! Following God is all about surrender. He has to have control of every area of my life. I've found that I have to be very careful, because I have a tendency to try and regain control of things without even realizing it.

I want to always be able to say, "God, my hands are open. You are free to give and free to take away. And even when You do give--my hands will stay open." It's my natural tendency to cling to the things that I love, but I've discovered that it's a surefire way to get them taken away. Living with your hands open (so to speak) is a really vulnerable place to be, and it can be really hard sometimes, but at the same time, it has been the most freeing experience I've ever had.

10. Be present.
Waiting. It's something that I seem to constantly be doing, but something I'm really bad at! I have a tendency to see the big picture first, then fill in all the details later. That can be a really good quality, but it can also get me into trouble. Sometimes (most of the time), I am so focused on the end result that I forget that the detail work of right now is what it takes to get there. Once again, I've had to learn to make a conscious effort to just be present. Right now matters. (Being thankful really comes into play here!)

11. Faith.
"Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see."
- Hebrews 11:1
I've heard that verse so many times, but I have never had to come to terms with what it really means as much as I have over the past few months. All of these lessons come down to faith in one way or another. It has definitely always been a part of my life in some way, but not like this. I say I believe in God. I say that I trust Him. I say that I believe He's good, and that His plan is best. And I really thought that I did believe those things. But when it all came down to it, did I really? Enough to actually act on it? It took me a long time to finally let go enough to be able to honestly say yes. It's still hard sometimes.

12. Freedom.
"It's easy for our thoughts to be dominated by a craving.... It takes ahold of us. We are not free…. If I want something to the point that I can't conceive of being content without it, then it owns me.... What started out as freedom can quickly become slavery.... Freedom is going without whatever we crave and being fine with it."
- Rob Bell in Sex God
I honestly cannot explain how profound that one quote has been for me. I wish I didn't understand it as perfectly as I do, but it has been my life for so long. But after months and months of digging deep and letting God do some major work on my heart, for the first time in a long, long time…I'm finally free. And freedom is incredible.

That isn't to say that it's easily kept.
"If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it."
- Genesis 4:7
Going back to the idea of perseverance: it definitely applies here. It's cliche to say, but freedom is not free. I've had to fight for it, and I'm still having to fight to keep it. Still, I'm not losing it this time.
"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery."
- Galatians 5:1
***

I just want to let you know, I love you all so much! (Even those of you I don't know personally--your comments and messages have been so encouraging, and I really, really do appreciate it more than you know!). Thanks for being awesome. I hope you all have an amazing new year!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Lessons learned.

Listening to: "Hymn" by Brooke Fraser
My theme song of the moment. So simple and beautiful and good. I love her music! Possible post about this one soon? Maybe? We'll see.

Oh, what a year. I don't even know how to begin to describe it. Joy. Hope. Pain. Despair. Trust. Anxiety. Loss. So, so much gained. I have never experienced anything quite like it*, and to be perfectly honest, I'd rather not have to ever again!

Still, I know this is going to be one of those years that I look back on with so much amazement, and probably even a little bit of wishing for certain aspects of it to come back. Sometimes, the most beautiful things can only be found in the most painful times. I've experienced so much growth this year, so much change that needed to happen--big time. I love the times when I'm constantly learning, when things are constantly clicking in my head, and I finally get it. And boy, did I learn a lot. (That being said, I am still so glad this year is over! I will never pray for anything close to that ever again. God can teach me on His own time. LESSON LEARNED.)

I've kept up with blogging about a lot of the lessons I've learned this year as they were happening, so I won't go into crazy detail here, but I did feel the need to be really cliche and make a retrospective year-in-review (or lessons-in-review, as it may be) kind of post. :) It's more for myself than for anyone, but I figured I'd share anyway. Also, since there have been so many different lessons, I'll post it in parts. Part one today, the rest to come soon!

Highlights (in no particular order):**

1. Be still and know.
Life is not predictable. Things are not going to go the way I expect them to, and God is not going to work the way I think He should. One of my favorite verses is Psalm 46:10:
"Be still and know that I am God."
Apparently, an alternate translation of "be still" is "let go"--
"Let go and know that I am God."
Stop freaking out. Stop worrying. Stop trying to control everything. Just be still, let it go, and recognize that He is God and I am not. He's got it under control, so I need to let Him be in control.

2. Thankfulness.
Gratitude: it's something you hear a lot about, but generally don't make a conscious effort to include it in your daily life. At least, that's how it's been for me. This is a huge thing that God has been teaching me over the past several months. Thankfulness is not just a nice suggestion; it's vital to joy and contentment and keeping God first (which, consequently, are all tied very closely together!). Even when everything is going wrong, there is always something to be thankful for, even if you have to get down to the tiniest things. Sometimes, it's the little things that matter most.***

3. Seek Him first.
"Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you as well."
- Matthew 6:33
God absolutely has to be first in my thoughts, in my heart, in my life. My whole life needs to be centered around Him. When it all comes down to it, He really is the only thing that matters. A relationship, a career, a life goal, whatever--if anything else is getting most of my attention and is what I'm striving for most, then something is wrong. He is the "prize," if you will. Nothing else.
"But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ."
- Philippians 3:7-8
I've always kind of understood that in my head, but this is the first time it's really clicked, and the first time that I've made a conscious effort to make it my way of life.**** Because it does require effort, constant effort, which brings me to my next point...

4. Perseverance: Keep pushing.
Everything is a process. Keeping the main goal in sight is absolutely crucial, because otherwise, you will never make it anywhere. The rest of life is way too distracting, and when things get painful and doubt starts creeping in, perspective is nearly impossible to maintain. The only way I've been able to keep going is because I've been doing my best to keep Lesson #3 in the front of my mind as much as I possibly can. My mindset: Push through the pain now, because it's the only way through. It will hurt, but the end will be worth it. And then (like now), once the pain is past, the goal still has to be in sight because at that point, it's the only motivation you have. There are no breaks here; it's a daily choice to make for the rest of your life.
"Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."
- Philippians 3:12-14
5. Blessings in disguise.
Sometimes, God's best does not come in the form we expect. Sometimes, His blessings come to us in really heartbreaking ways. Sometimes, pain is proof that God loves us.

God knows what's best for us. The thing is, it usually takes a good deal of pain to actually get there. Rarely can we get to where He wants us to be without giving up certain things we have now. Gaining His best often requires a lot of loss on our part. That isn't to say that we don't gain so much more--we do--but loss is always painful. And sometimes, there are things in our hearts that have to be removed, and a lot of times, it requires a great deal of pain to bring it to the surface. In the end, if we handle it correctly, pain will always bring us closer to God. Isn't that in itself worth it?
"You said, 'I know that this will hurt
But if I don't break your heart, then things will just get worse
If the burden seems too much to bear,
Remember, the end will justify the pain it took to get us there.'"
- "Let It All Out" by Relient K
6. Dig deep: Finding purpose in the pain.
When it comes to dealing with pain, we have two options: Face it head on or bury it with distractions. Option one actually gets us somewhere, while option two is only going to make things hurt even more in the end.

Finding purpose in the hardest times requires us to do some serious soul-searching. It means digging deep and making some changes that we may not have even realized we needed. I'm not saying that every painful situation is a result of something we've done wrong, because that's definitely not the case. Still, every painful situation can be used to grow, and growth almost always requires change. Hard? Very. Worth it? Most definitely.

(Click here for part 2!)

*I do have to say, though--it's had its fair share of similarities to 2009! Kind of scary in some ways. Both were definitely big years for learning and growing and maturing in major ways. Just different ones.
**It was kind of hard for me to divide these up into a nice little list because all of these lessons are so related and intertwined and often inseparable. But…I did my best.
***Keeping a list of "the little things" I'm thankful for has become one of my favorite things. It's amazing how much you miss when you aren't looking! God really is so good.
****This is such a basic concept, I know, and it's one I've heard all my life, but the meaning of it didn't click until this year. Maybe I'm a little slow, but the basic, foundational stuff has been big for me lately. It's like I'm finally getting it, not just in my mind, but in my heart, because I'm actually experiencing it and having to make the conscious decision to include it in my life.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Just keep swimming...

Listening to: "1000 Ships (Acoustic" by Rachel Platten
Just discovered her today (yes, another NoiseTrade find). I really like this song, and "Nothing Ever Happens" isn't too bad either. Pretty good stuff!
"Never, never, never give up."
- Winston Churchill
Perseverance.

Out of all of the lessons that I've learned this year (and trust me, there have been a lot!), this has been one of the biggest, and it's one I'm still struggling to get. Pushing all the way through has never been my strong point. I'm great at starting things, and even figuring out what I need to do to get to the end goal, but when it comes to actually following through with it--completely? Not so much. It's a major weakness of mine that I didn't even recognize until this year.*

At the beginning of anything, I typically have one of two things to motivate me: pain or excitement. Either things are too painful not to move forward, or I'm really excited about what's happening, so moving forward isn't even a question--I want to! Unfortunately, neither one lasts. There always comes a point when all emotion wears off. That's when who I really am comes to the surface.

Do I really love Him enough to keep pursuing Him first?
Do I really trust Him enough to keep following Him, even if He doesn't?
Am I really finding my contentment in Him alone?
Am I really willing to wait patiently for Him, not jumping ahead, no matter how long it takes?

Or am I just fooling myself, lying not only to myself, but to Him as well?

They're all questions I've been grappling with lately, trying so hard to come to an honest answer…and to do whatever I possibly can to make sure my answer is, without question, YES. Lately, it's been coming down to sheer determination…and lots of prayer! I cannot afford to give up. Not now.

Goal: keep pushing, no matter how hard it gets. Because the end is worth it.

"Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith."
- Hebrews 12:1-2
*There have been a lot of those this year, actually--weaknesses I didn't know I had coming to the surface. It's beyond humbling (not to mention painful) when you have to come to terms with how messed up you really are. I was already plenty aware of the fact that I'm not perfect, but this year has taken it to a whole new level!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Remember

"Writer" by AmythePirate
I have a really good memory.

If I'm known for anything, it's probably that. I remember dates, details of conversations, and half the time, I remember my friends' lives and schedules better than they do (I may or may not have once gotten a text saying, "This probably sounds stupid, but…what do I have to do today?"…and I may or may not have been able to give an actual answer). This has probably made me seem creepy on more than one occasion. Oops. (Unintentional, I promise. I'm not stalking people.) It's not that I try to remember all these things; I just do. I can't really help myself!

Anyway.

Remembering is something that has always been really important to me. Not so much the random details of other people's lives (though I'm happy to help you keep track of your class schedule), but remembering all the details of life that later add up to something really significant, things you can't see while they're happening.

Normally, at the end of every year, I read through my journals from January 1 through December 31, just to reminisce the entire year. This is the first year since I was 14 that I won't be doing that (I accidentally left my other journals at school. I can't say I really want to re-live everything that happened this year though, so I'm not too disappointed). Still, it isn't remembering random events and things that happened that I love so much; it's remembering the lessons and the growth that occurred because of them.

I don't want to forget.

It's not that I'm so caught up in the past that I stop living in the present. Rather, it's that I want to remember what I learned then so I can keep applying it now. Forgetting is so easy, much easier than it should be. Perspective can be lost before you even have a chance to realize it's slipping. I can spend months learning something, feel confident that I've finally got it down, and then something happens that makes me lose it all in a single day. When I take the time to remember, though, it helps keep me on track.*

I can't forget what He has already done, where He's brought me from, or I'll never be able to fully appreciate where He's taking me. Even more than that, I'll never be able to stay on track enough to actually get there. Not only that, but it's so amazing to be able to look back and see how God has used such seemingly minor things in incredible ways. That's one of my favorite things.
"Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the LORD your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm…"
- Deuteronomy 5:15
*For me, that means going back and reading my journal from when my perspective was right. Seeing it written down has so much more impact than just trying to think about it. That's something I've been REALLY thankful for over the past few days. It has helped a lot.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

"Thou and thou only first in my heart..."

Currently thankful for: Christmas movies, candles, finally getting paid, and last but most definitely not least, BEING DONE WITH THIS SEMESTER. Enough said about that!

Keeping God first is the hardest thing.

It should be so easy. I mean, seriously--He's so, so good, and absolutely everything I could possibly need. I have more joy and am more content with Him than I am at any other time. So why is it that my heart jumps at the chance to replace Him at the slightest opportunity? I'll never understand that. It doesn't make sense.

The past couple of weeks have been a struggle to make sure He stays first in my heart, my thoughts, my life. I've already failed at it more than once. Falling back into old patterns is all too easy, but I'm learning to recognize them--and to recognize what I need to do to avoid them. As hard as it is to discipline myself like this, it has forced me to be in a near-constant state of prayer, just to keep my head above water.

Sometimes, I forget that surrender and putting God first is a process, not an event. It's not something that I do once and for all, never having to think about it again. Instead, it's something I have to do constantly and will have to continue until the day that I die. I will never come to a point when I can say, "Wow, I'm glad that's over with. I learned a lot and now God is first; I don't have to focus on keeping Him there anymore." Yet that's what has happened every single time I've come through a hard situation. And guess what? As soon as I stop focusing on Him so intently, everything slowly begins to fall apart again.

Will I ever learn?

Even if He chooses to move me to the next stage of the process, a happier time, that doesn't mean I'm supposed to stop clinging to Him, or even loosen my grip. And even if He doesn't fulfill what I'm hoping for, that doesn't mean I'm supposed to suddenly trust Him any less. Because even if He doesn't, I will still trust Him. I will still love Him. I will still follow Him, knowing that His plan is best.
"Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, 'King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.'"
- Daniel 3:16-18
That has become one of the most profound verses in the Bible to me, and one of my biggest lessons over the past several months. Those guys knew what God could do, even what they truly believed that He would do, and certainly they wanted to be rescued, but in the end, it really didn't matter. Their faith was in Him, not in what He could do. It's the same reason Abraham was able to obey when God told him to sacrifice Isaac. Abraham knew what God had promised him, but he had to be willing to let go of even that--even the promise--and trust that God is faithful. Even if He doesn't, He is faithful.

"Thou and Thou only first in my heart
High King of Heaven, my treasure, Thou art."

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Things I Like: Music Edition!

Photo Credit: Unknown
Currently thankful for: Sun shining through the clouds on an otherwise cold, rainy day; being productive; inside jokes; listening to the random conversations that occur on third floor Humanities; unexpected opportunities

Finals week: time for more procrastination! Yay! I only have one more to go, but I am so unmotivated, like I can't even begin to say. Hence the reason I'm writing this. I'm pretty sure you all know by this point that I like music...a lot. It's pretty much impossible for me to pick all-time favorites, but I figured I'd share some stuff that I've been liking lately (I've may have mentioned some of them before, so sorry in advance for any repeats!). So, in no particular order...

1. Matthew Mayfield
"Sing 'til you mean it and love 'til you feel it
'Cause I still believe in your heart
Don't let the waves push and pull you away
Now you're free and it sets you apart."

- Matthew Mayfield, "Now You're Free"
 I love those lyrics! Ever since I got his Now You're Free album off of NoiseTrade (best site ever!), I've been a pretty big fan. I like his sound a lot, and the lyrics are pretty great, too!


2. The Walla Recovery
They're not very well-known, but I've really been liking their folksy, cello-driven sound lately (but really, when don't I like folk music? Especially when it includes an instrument like a cello? Yes, please!). Their songs have a lot of great spiritual themes without being cliche about it. Their song "Spoils of Warring Hearts" is excellent.


3. Andrew Belle
I love his music so much! It's a perfect balance between happy and contemplative...at least that's how I feel about it. He has so many good ones, but this song is one of my absolute favorites:


I'll admit, I don't completely get the video...but it's still kind of cool (and I still love the song).

4. Hymns in general
I know this is kind of odd, but I have been absolutely loving old hymns this semester. "Be Thou My Vision" has pretty much been my theme song since like, September, and I still sing it all the time. Others include (but are not limited to): "In Christ Alone"*, "How Firm a Foundation," "Solid Rock," and "Jesus Paid It All."


So. Freaking. Good.

5. Mat Kearney
This guy is just awesome. His Young Love album is amazing. It's so upbeat and happy and I just can't help but love it! I'm actually going to see him in concert with some friends next month, and I am super excited about it. A few of many favorite songs of his: "Ships in the Night," "Down," "Count on Me," and "All I Need" (from Nothing Left to Lose).


That's all I have for now. After tomorrow, I am free until January!(!!!!) Half of senior year: DONE. Scary thought!

*If I could choose one song to be my absolute all-time favorite, "In Christ Alone" would probably be it. For me, it says it all.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Procrastination (n): This post right here

Photo Credit: Unknown
Listening to: "Element" by Matthew Mayfield
This song is seriously beautiful. I love it. I also love Matthew Mayfield. Get his Now You're Free album--"Element" included--for free on NoiseTrade (of course--seriously, that site is the best)! Good stuff, all of it.

Hey, friends. Seeing that I have a 7-page research paper to write (I currently have a page and a half), two smaller papers, and 50 pages of Frankenstein to read (I've read about 5), all by tomorrow, that obviously means it's time for me to procrastinate even more by writing a blog post. Some things never change.*

Digging Deep, cont.
Remember how I was talking about digging deep and such in my last post? Well, last Sunday after I wrote it, guess what Scripture the sermon was based around? Oh, Psalm 139 (which I ended the post with). And guess what his one comment on the last two verses (the ones I used) was? Oh, just that "search me" in the original Hebrew essentially means to dig deep. Ha! I love it.

Compassion
I started sponsoring a kid through Compassion International last week! His name is Prosenjit and he's 11 and from India. I'm super excited. It's something that I've wanted to do since I was like, 12, but was always afraid to commit to a monthly payment. Ever since the summer, though, I've kinda felt like it's something that God wanted me to do, but still, it took me a couple of months to finally decide that it's a faith thing: if He wants me to do it, He'll provide the money somehow. Besides, I have so much. Most of the world lives on less than a dollar a day. The average income for the area where Prosenjit lives? $15 a month. That's like 50 cents a day. I spend seven times that much--an entire week's worth of pay for them--multiple times a week on a cup of COFFEE. They'd have to save absolutely everything for nearly 4 months just to pay for a tank of gas. How's that for some perspective?

Not only that, but everything that Compassion stands for is exactly what I want to do with my life. For me, this is like taking the first step in actually fulfilling that. I like that they're all about changing lives at the individual level. I like that they recognize that the spiritual aspect is absolutely crucial, which is why they work through local churches. I just like what they do a lot. Their Holistic Child Development model makes perfect sense to me...hence the reason I'm planning to get my masters degree in just that! So even though I technically just started getting involved with them, what they stand for is something that I am really passionate about, so get ready: you're probably about to start hearing a lot more about it!

Thankful
Thankfulness is such a common theme for this time of year, but it's something that's been a recurring theme for me over the past couple of months, and not something I plan to change! I've been keeping a daily list of little things that I'm thankful for, and it's amazing how it has changed my perspective for the better! 
  • The sound of rain
  • The 11(!) little kids I got to spend my Thanksgiving with (including 3 sweet girls who are convinced I'm a superstar)**
  • Good music
  • Christmas lights at Inman
  • Slowly understanding more & more about what God is up to...and even then, recognizing that I don't have a clue.

Things I Like

  • Everything about this room:
    1. Photo clothesline, complete with vintage frame and painted knobs
    2. Bird pillow (anything with bird silhouettes automatically means I love it)
    3. Collage painting--I love, love, love the idea of decorating with my own artwork
    4. Painted lampshade (and I like that teal lampshade, too!)
  • Tennessee print (love the lettering, love Tennessee):
    "Rocky Top, you'll always be home sweet home to me."

  • This "Choose Joy" print. Birds & a reminder I need constantly--perfect:
    "Choose joy. Because everything is relative."
*Well, by the time I'm actually posting this, my paper has been completed. Only 7 hours of work. You know, no big deal... I just spent a lot of time procrastinating in between.
**Yes, 11 kids. My two cousins, my friend's two little girls, and 7 of her little cousins. If I ever have self-esteem issues, I just need to go hang out with them. I'm pretty sure Lizzie (6), Emma (4), & Mackenzie (8) are convinced that I'm the greatest thing that ever happened to planet Earth. I'm not really sure why, but hey, I'm not complaining!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Digging deep

"Humble Gift" by Marie Elliot
Listening to: "How Firm a Foundation" by The Walla Recovery
(I have been on such a hymns kick lately. Kind of strange and random, I know, but this stuff is just so good! They just have so much substance to them, instead of being so focused on the emotional--not that emotional is bad--and I love that.) 

Favorite thing: unexpectedly coming across stuff that lines up perfectly with everything I've been pondering on my own.

Lately, I've been thinking so much about pain and how the way you handle it is so vital to who you are, about how it brings out things in you that you never realized were there and forces you to deal with them, about how incredibly important having a strong foundation is for anything else you encounter. One of the biggest things: As hard and painful as it's been, I am so thankful that God has used the past few months to get my attention and forced me to dig into the deepest parts of my heart to get rid of everything that's been buried there, things I had no idea even existed. Digging deep like that isn't easy--at all. It's so difficult to have to face yourself for who you really are…and even more so to actually deal with it. Still, it's so, so worth it.

As I was reading my Bible yesterday, this verse really stood out to me:
"As for everyone who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice, I will show you what they are like. They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built."
- Luke 6:47-48 (NIV)
Seriously? Down to the exact wording of what I've been thinking. I had no idea the "dug down deep" part even existed. This is exactly where I am right now: getting rid of everything inside that's in the way of building the foundation I need for everything that's coming next. I don't know what that will be, but it's exactly why God has been pushing me: "Seek Me first. Don't worry about what comes next--this step is most important." Without this, everything that comes next will be worthless because there's nothing to build on. Case in point:
"But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete."
- Luke 6:49
So then, last night, I had to read another chapter in Sexy Christians by Ted & Diane Roberts, a book for my Human Sexuality class. (Ahem. Good book, exceptionally ridiculous title.) To be honest, I wasn't looking forward to it. While I do like the book, I've been making a point to avoid it because quite frankly, I've been avoiding anything having to do with relationships lately.* This chapter, though? Could not have been more perfect. It was completely focused on pain, finding purpose in it, dealing with it correctly, how it forces you to deal with who you really are. It also emphasized the importance of pain in coming to really know God. Like I said--perfect. Some favorite quotes:
"In Abraham's culture, fathers found their value and future in their heritage--particularly in their firstborn sons. In this environment, it seemed almost natural for Abraham to develop an unhealthy addiction to Isaac. But do you see what God did? He loved Abraham enough to bring him to the knifepoint of finding his value solely in his relationship with his heavenly Father."**
"What we do with our pain is one of life's determining factors…. What we do with our pain determines the depth of our character…"***
They go on to say that, when it comes to pain, you have two options:
Option 1: Pain + Purpose = Freedom
Option 2: Pain + Pleasure = Bondage****
Basically, you can use the pain to grow and come to know God in a way you never have before, or you can bury the pain by distracting yourself with other things, denying that perhaps there are things within you that need to change. God often uses pain to get our attention, but we have to be willing to acknowledge Him...and that requires us to dig. Deep. Painful? Very. But so very, very worth it in the end.
"Fairytale Tree" by Chinitsu
 "Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting."
- Psalm 139:23-24 (NIV)

*Usually my favorite subject, but I need a break from it just now :)
**Sexy Christians, p. 201
***Sexy Christians, p. 202
****Sexy Christians, p. 202

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Waiting, always waiting.

Listening to: "The Ladder" by Andrew Belle
(Lyric love: "On a ladder from there to here, I'll climb / All these clatter between my ears I find / Does it matter if I can't clear my mind? / There's a right and a wrong time." -- I have been listening to his music waaay too much much lately. I can't help it! This song in particular is one of my favorites. So good. Check out the music video here!) 

Wait. That's the only thing I seem to hear lately. It's probably one of the most frustrating answers to get: a mix between hope for a yes and the reality that the answer may still be no.

I hate uncertainty.

It doesn't help things that I'm the kind of person who loves figuring things out. I love finding the connections between things (and, oh, the connections I find!). Basically, I tend to be a big picture kind of girl when it comes to stuff like this. I'll try to wrap my mind around the entire thing when God just wants me to focus on the detail work that it takes to actually get there. I see so many of these big connections, yet in the context of where God has me right now? Those things don't matter. Just because something is there doesn't mean it's relevant at the moment.*

Psalm 27 has come up so many times over the past month or so. Seriously, it's been everywhere! The verses that have stood out the most:
“My heart says of you, 'Seek his face!' Your face, LORD, I will seek.” - Psalm 27:8 (NIV)
and
“Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.” - Psalm 27:14 (NIV)
Both line up exactly with what I feel like God's telling me lately: “Wait. Be hopeful. Be content with now. Don't worry about what happens next; just focus on Me. Just wait.

That's hard for me. I struggle with being present. I'm great at looking back--I can analyze the past like nothing else (which I do...often). I'm also good at looking ahead--predicting the future seems to be a favorite pastime of mine (but one I'm really, really bad at). But focusing on right now? Not my thing. Yet I know that it's exactly what I have to do. There's a reason He hasn't answered yet. I have to go through the process of now to get to the end result...whatever that may be.

Ultimately, the wait is exactly what solidifies everything I've been learning up until now. All the lessons in faith, hope, trust, etc.--they're so important, and they're in my heart, but at the same time, if the process ended here? I'm pretty sure I'd lose it all within a month or two. Waiting can be really dull because the excitement of learning so many new things isn't there, but I'm starting to think that it's the most important part of all.
“Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. - James 1:4 (NIV)
"Pressing On" by Unknown

Some things I'm liking lately:
  • These birds-on-a-wire photo clips are wonderful. $10 for a set of 8 is a little on the pricey side for me, but I'm almost thinking it's worth it.
  • Pretty silver leaf necklace from Morgan Prather on Etsy. Simple, nature-y...of course I like it.
  • This ampersand print. (Actually, anything with an ampersand is probably something I like... That's probably kind of cliche. Oh well.)
  • Pallet art. This is one of my favorite hymns, and I absolutely love this particular lyric. So good.

*That being said, it's definitely relevant in the long run. Sometimes, though, it does more harm than good to focus on the end result. If I'm so caught up in where I'm ultimately supposed to be, I lose my focus on the task at hand, and right now is necessary in getting to where I need to be. It's all a process--it can't happen all at once.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Just like autumn

Photo Credit: julkusiowa
Currently thankful for: Gorgeous fall weather, trips to Chilhowee to see the leaves and watch the sunset, random trips to Jenkins with good friends, good music, hot chocolate!
(Also, a sense of humor to laugh at the worst awkward situations. Seriously, my life is destined to be a sitcom. Things happen to me that happen on episodes of Friends, not in real life. Except they do happen in my life. I guess I should be used to it by now.)

As I'm writing this, I'm at one of my favorite places: a big rock on top of a mountain, overlooking a lake and a beautiful sunset, with colorful leaves fluttering around me, crunching when I walk.

Autumn is my favorite time of year.

Ironic, because not only is it the most beautiful season to me, it's also one of the saddest. Everything is dying, and I know that soon, the trees will be bare, the grass will be brown, and I'll be stuck indoors until March.

Still, without the death that autumn brings, there can be no changing leaves, no color, no bonfires or caramel apples, none of the vibrance of the season that I love the most. The best things can't come without pain.

And yes, spring will come eventually. New life always follows death. Things won't hurt forever. And I do love springtime as well. The warmth, the flowers, the green, the birds. It's a close second favorite.

Even so, there's just something special about the fall.

The more I experience, the more I go through the changes of life, the more I begin to realize: there's something special about the hardest times. Yes, they hurt so much, and no, I probably wouldn't choose them if given an option. But it's through this kind of pain that the most beautiful changes come. Somehow, the most joy comes in the times that hurt the most. Sometimes, it's not about pushing through and waiting for the hard times to be over; it's about finding the incredible joy that can only be found in them. It's something I don't understand, but it's the most special kind of joy and peace that I've ever experienced.

It's the hardest times that force things in me to die. And when they die, I learn what it means to really live. I learn to see Him again.

When I am weak, He is strong.
Whoever loses his life will gain it.
Dying, we live.

Sometimes, the beauty can only be found in the loss. Just like autumn.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Friends in unexpected places

Photo Credit: Johan Lind
Listening to: "Moving Backwards" by Ben Rector
"Standing still isn't easy when the world's moving backwards." I love Ben Rector and I love this song. He's just good. I definitely recommend checking out his sampler on NoiseTrade. This song isn't on there, but two more of my favorites ("The Beat" and "When a Heart Breaks") are.

I've made a new friend this semester.

His name is Roy, he's 83 years old, and he's one of the sweetest men you will ever meet. Also, he really, really likes soccer.

I first noticed him at the very beginning of this semester. He was sitting by himself on a bench by the soccer field, as he does nearly every single day, and I had such a strong urge to go and talk to him. That doesn't happen to me all that often, and as soon as the thought came, along with it came a million excuses for why I shouldn't.

"I don't know him."
"What would I even say?"
"That's kind of an awkward thing to do."
"I'm not all that great at initiating conversations with people I don't know."
"I've never been good at talking to elderly people."

Blah, blah, blah.

Still, the silly excuses won out, so I smiled (I can do that) and kept walking...and felt really lame about it afterwards.

A couple of weeks later, I had to drop off something before my 3:00 class, so I left 10 minutes earlier than usual. He was sitting there again, and I had to walk right by his bench on my way. I smiled at him, and he gave me a huge smile in return, along with, "Hey! How are you doing?" Well, there was no way I was going to keep walking then, so I went over to him and we chatted for a couple of minutes. He told me all about the soccer game from the night before, and about how great the team was doing, and how much he loved the nice weather. Eventually, I had to continue on to class, but just those few minutes brightened my whole day. Since then, I always try to stop and talk to him when I see him, even if it's only for a second.

So anyway, today has been really rough for me. Overall, I'm doing okay, but there are just those days, you know? After classes, I was feeling really lame, so I just went home and poured a bowl of cereal for lunch (my cabinets are empty--definitely time for a trip to the grocery store!). I took a bite and immediately gagged. Nothing like a spoonful of spoiled milk. Ugh. Off to the PCSU for Chick-fil-A it was. On my way over, I saw Mr. Roy sitting on his bench again. Honestly, I didn't feel like stopping to talk, and was going to settle for a quick wave and a smile and be on my way. Just as I was about to cross the street, though, I couldn't. All I could think was, It's just a minute of small talk. Why pass up the chance to brighten someone else's day, just because I don't feel so awesome? So I made a quick turn and went over to say hi. We chatted for a second, he asked how I was, and I told him I was heading to get lunch. He paused for a second, then asked, "Well, where are you going for lunch?" I told him. Another pause. Then, "Well, can I come with you? Maybe we can sit and eat together!"* Obviously, I wasn't going to pass that up, so off we went to the PCSU. I bought his lunch, so he insisted on buying me a Coke, and we went and sat outside to eat.

It wasn't much, and honestly it was a little awkward at times when I didn't know what to say, but at the same time, it made my day so much better. I was hoping to give what I could to brighten his day a little, but I'm pretty sure he did a million times more for me than I did for him! He even asked me to come sit and watch the soccer game with him on Saturday :) It's just another one of those little things that come from the most unexpected places. Those are always the best.

Until next time (a slightly more serious list of things I like)...
*This was so precious to me. He was so sweet and eager and excited about it. I love it.
**Actually, I really like that whole section--verses 16-22. I can't rescue myself from any situation; I'm not strong enough...even at my strongest. Only God. Even when it seems like He's nowhere to be found, I have to trust that He's going to help me, because seriously, what other hope do I have? Without Him, I'm screwed.
***I have never been a crier, but good grief. God keeps sending me little things that are so perfect at just the right time, and they hit me so hard. I can't help myself!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Be Thou My Vision

Currently thankful for: The best friends...ever, Inman St. Coffeehouse (but not caffeine)*, gorgeous fall weather, and the fact that fall break starts in 5 days!
(I've been trying my best to keep a running list of the little things I find to be thankful for on any given day. It's kind of amazing how much it helps me in keeping a good perspective on things!)

This song has been on my mind so much over the past few days. Sometimes, old hymns are the best thing I can possibly hear. The lyrics are so simple, yet so sincere and beautiful. I love how, even though this was originally written in the 8th century--1,300 years ago--it's still exactly how I feel now.
"Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart,
naught be all else to me, save that thou art;
Thou my best thought by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, thy presence my light.

Be thou my wisdom, thou my true word,
I ever with thee and thou with me Lord;
Thou my great Father, I thy true son;
Thou in me dwelling, and I with thee one.

Be thou my breastplate, sword for the fight;
Be thou my dignity, thou my delight;
Thou my soul's shelter, thou my high tower:
Raise thou me heavenward, O Power of my power.

Riches I heed not, nor man's empty praise:
Thou mine inheritance now and always;
Thou and thou only first in my heart;
High King of Heaven, my treasure thou art.

High King of heaven, my victory won,
May I reach heaven's joys, O Bright Heaven's sun!;
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my vision, O Ruler of all."
*Who needs drugs when you have caffeine? Seriously, my body freaks out whenever I have it, even in small doses. A regular cup of coffee makes me jittery and on edge for a full 12 hours. No lie. Please, if you're ever with me, always force me to get decaf! In other news, the new Inman St. Coffeehouse is awesome and if you haven't been, you should go. It's cheaper (and better, in my opinion) than Starbucks, they're open until 11:00 every night, the profits go to support the Salvation Army, and they have Guitar Hero. What else do you need?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

It's the little things...

Listening to: LIGHTS' new album, Siberia
Definitely didn't realize that this was released yesterday. It's okay, but I think I prefer The Listening. Either way, thank you, Spotify, for letting me listen without having to spend money I don't have.

Photo Credit: Unknown
Today, I can't stop smiling.

Nothing particularly special has happened. It's been a pretty average Wednesday, really. This week, though, I've started seeing God everywhere, and I can't get over how amazing that is. It's never anything huge or spectacular; it's the little things. And somehow, those tend to be so much more special to me.

For my Human Sexuality class, I'm reading Sex God by Rob Bell. Generally speaking, I'm not a huge fan of his, but this book is actually really good...especially the fourth chapter. I usually don't highlight or underline my books, but this chapter is just too good and relevant not to. Interestingly enough, it's about lust, but as I'm figuring out (and if you read it, you'll understand), lust isn't always about sex. It can be about anything. Adam and Eve in the Garden?
"In most cases, there's nothing wrong with [the things we lust for] inherently.... The problem for Adam and Eve is what the fruit has come to represent. Rebellion against God." (Sex God, p. 72)
He talks about contentment and why that's so important--
"When we're not at peace, when we aren't content, when we aren't in a good place, our radar gets turned on. We're looking.... There's a hole, a space, a gap, and we're on the search. And we may not even realize it. When we are in the right place, the right space--content and at peace--we aren't on the search and our radar gets turned off." (Sex God, p. 73)
I could go way into what I've learned about peace and contentment and what that means, but I'll save that for another time. Basically though, it's finding my satisfaction in God alone. Wherever He has me in life is enough because He put me there. It's true joy.
"It's easy for our thoughts to be dominated by a craving.... It takes ahold of us. We are not free. Lust is slavery. If I want something to the point that I can't conceive of being content without it, then it owns me.... What started out as freedom can quickly become slavery.... Freedom is going without whatever we crave and being fine with it." (Sex God, p. 74-75)
He hits the nail on the head with that one. I can't even elaborate. Because when I read that, something clicked. I finally got it.

And that brings me to my main point.

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about being thankful. This is another thing Bell talks about in this chapter:
"Gratitude is so central to the life God made us for. Until we can center ourselves on what we do have, on what God has given us, on the life we do get to live, we'll constantly be looking for another life." (Sex God, p. 74)
Over the past several days, I feel like God has been trying to teach me that. Be content. Be at peace. Be thankful. Like I said before, I like the little things in life. At the same time, sometimes I forget to look for them, and with the little things, looking is essential. If I'm caught up in all of the problems with my life, I'm never going to notice everything around me that God has given me. I'll never notice the little things.

That being said, I'm trying to make a conscious effort to be thankful. When I'm bombarded with thoughts of everything that's going wrong, I want to be able to redirect my thoughts and think about the good things...even when there are no major things in my life that are going right. That's where the little things come in.

* * *

Perfect sunny days. The way the wind blows through the trees. Randomly waking up at 7am and looking out my window to see hints of color from the sunrise. Spontaneous trips to Chattanooga. Ridiculous chapel services that I don't get at all, but hey, at least they make me laugh:
"A lot of Lee students are literally frozen and unable to do what God has called them to do." Literally, huh? I guess that ice gets pretty inconvenient.

"We've gotta sing this song. We have to or I'm gonna blow up." Uhhh...yeah... Calm down.
Finally being able to smile at someone I've had trouble forgiving for 2 years. Opportunities (and extra time) to reconnect with friends I love but don't get to see as often as I'd like. When classes are relevant to my personal life. Having time to read for fun. Iced coffee between classes. Stopping to make small talk about soccer and the weather with a sweet elderly man I regularly see on campus. The everyday conversations with friends that aren't particularly memorable but make life happier.

Photo Credit: im-on-tambourine

"Always be joyful. Pray continually, and give thanks whatever happens. That is what God wants for you in Christ Jesus."
- 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NCV)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Blessings in disguise

"Birdsong" via We Heart It
Listening to: "Strong Enough to Save" by Tenth Avenue North
(Yet another song that has come at the perfect time. I like how God tends to speak to me through the things I enjoy the most: music, books, nature, friends... It's kinda cool, really.)

(I have a lot to say lately. To avoid writing the longest blog of the century, however, I think I'm going to break it up into smaller pieces. It's a little too much to take in all at once, even for me!)

I was reading some of my old posts the other day, and I came across one I wrote back in April that made me laugh. It wasn't actually funny, but oh, the irony! Life wasn't bad, just really boring and routine, and I was getting tired of it. I even went so far as to say that I missed sophomore year. Ha! Well, wish no more, because I'm pretty sure I'm living out fall 2009, round two. They're so parallel, it's a little freaky. That's what I get for asking God to teach me something. Never again! From here on out, I will be content with boredom and let Him teach me on His own time. This isn't quite what I signed up for! Geez.

Anyway. As promised, I wanted to blog about this song:
Blessings
Laura Story
"We pray for blessings, we pray for peace
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
We pray for healing, for prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering

And all the while, you hear each spoken need
Yet love us way too much to give us lesser things

'Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops?
What if Your healing comes through tears?
And what if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You're near?
And what if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise?

We pray for wisdom, Your voice to hear
We cry in anger when we cannot feel You near
We doubt Your goodness, we doubt Your love
As if every promise from Your Word is not enough

All the while, You hear each desperate plea
And long that we'd have faith to believe

When friends betray us, when darkness seems to win
We know the pain reminds this heart
That this is not, this is not our home

And what if my greatest disappointments
Or the achings of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can't satisfy?
And what if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are Your mercies in disguise?"
I think I could go on for days about these lyrics. To be honest, this isn't the kind of song I would typically like, but the lyrics are so meaningful that I can't help myself.* I heard it so many times this summer (it made me cry almost every time, but at the same time, I tried my hardest to ignore it. What my problem was, I don't know). The other day, though, I was driving around by myself for 3 hours straight, and it came on at the most perfect time possible. I've been hooked ever since. It is so fitting to where I am right now. A few lines I wanted to comment on...

* * *

"All the while, You hear each spoken need, yet love us way too much to give us lesser things."

Whoa. It hit me so hard the first time I realized what this actually said. God does hear every word I say; He's not up there ignoring me or withholding the things I so desperately want just for the heck of it. When God says no, it's for my benefit. Always. If what I'm asking for is less than what is ultimately best for me, He loves me too much to give it to me. He can't give me less than His absolute best. It sounds cliché in some ways, but when that kind of realization really hits you, it's huge. That's something I've been trying to get through my head lately. It's not easy. Most of the time, I feel like, "Well, I don't want better. I just want this!" Yet I can't see what's ahead. I have no idea what's coming next in my life. In reality, I have no idea what I really need. I just have to trust that He does.

* * *

"We pray for wisdom, Your voice to hear. We cry in anger when we cannot feel You near. We doubt Your goodness, we doubt Your love, as if every promise from Your Word is not enough."

Well, that's my summer summed up in three sentences. Praying over and over and over for wisdom, for God to speak to me, to know what the heck I'm supposed to do next, yet...no answer. It's so frustrating, and yeah, anger has been my response a good bit of the time.

A couple of weeks ago at church, Allan Lockerman pointed out something that I had never thought about before.** He was talking about Isaiah 50:10-11, and at one point, it refers to trusting "in the Name of the Lord." Not in the Lord--in His Name. I've always kind of wondered about that, but assumed there was no distinction. Not so. He explained that, particularly in Hebrew culture, someone's name is who they are, their character. I can't always sense that God is near, but I can always trust Him to be true to Himself. I can always trust that His character will never change.

I doubt God so much, yet I have no legitimate reason whatsoever. He has proved Himself over and over again, not only in the lives of others, but in mine. He has never, ever shown Himself to be anything less than what He says...but still, I doubt. Why? He has promised me so much. That should be enough, even if I don't see it right now.

* * *

"What if trials of this life, the rain, the storms, the hardest nights, are Your mercies in disguise?"

This is a concept I've struggled to grasp. I get it in my head, and I can totally apply it to other people. Actually, I can usually apply it to myself, but this time? I've had a really, really hard time with it. I think I'm starting to get it though. I don't understand much of anything that's happened over the past few months, but I'm coming the the conclusion: the less I understand and the harder the situation, the less I can depend on myself. That forces me to depend on God, causing me to trust Him and grow closer to Him. Even aside from the fact that it could be preparing me for something I can't see yet, or protecting me, or whatever...isn't that in itself worth it? He's worth everything. Knowing Him is the most important thing. Whatever it takes to get that is absolutely worth it, no question.


"And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose." - Romans 8:28

* Generally speaking, I haven't been a huge fan of Christian music for the past few years. Lately though, I'm finding myself listening to it more and more. Go figure. 
** Common occurrence. I love that man. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

"When it's hard to still keep on hoping..."

Credit: theonlysong
Listening to: "Blessings" by Laura Story
(This song came on the radio the other day at the most perfect time possible. I'll actually probably post something more about it sometime in the near future. The lyrics are wonderful.)

Generally speaking, I'm not one to re-post stuff other people have written unless it's a short quote or song lyrics. I randomly came across this today though, and it could not have been more perfect for where I currently am. This week has been especially difficult, and earlier this afternoon, I prayed that God would give me something to encourage me and help me. Thirty seconds later, I read this (once again proving that He knows me well).

*      *      *

"The earth’s cold under the finger nails.

I dig holes with a wedge of steel and around fringes of the domed sky, the clouds scud gray.

Dad had called first thing in the morning: if I had anything to do outside, today looked like the last day. Might be the last warm day to dig in bulbs, before autumn begins her blustery, muddy wrestle.

I’d nodded. Yes, Dad. Bulbs, today, will do. And last clean up of the flowerbeds. Thank you for calling, thinking of me, Dad.

I’d hardly hung up the receiver before it rang again, a friend, whose first words spoke of weather too: brooding storm bearing down.

'What do I do when I just don’t know how to go on?' Her voice cracks, flash of pain forking across skies.

I listen to expectations struck, her hopes snapped off in gale.

'Just a day to be sad, I guess,' she finishes, beaten. 'Today, I’m not up to trying to fix or solve any of it. Just grieving today.' And then the quiet rain of tears. Together, we let the lament come.

Then I gather bulbs. Pull out the spade, and go dig holes, because I’m just dirt with no answers, only prayers.

'Why do we have to dig so deep?' Son’s face reddens in the excavating. Little One digs her own hole alongside mine.

'Well, Child, some things are meant to really be laid down.'

'I’m going to drop mine in now.' Son’s holding his bulb poised, looking my way for assurance.

'No!' Little One wails. 'Don’t put the flower so far down in the dark!' She tries to wrest the bulb from his hand. I scoop her angst all up close.

'But it has to go down in,' I brush the hair out of her eyes, kiss tip of that pug nose. And sometimes, Child, hope’s waiting is dark.

She turns her face up towards mine and our cheeks brush. 'Will we have to dig them up to get the flowers after the snow?' I squeeze her tight.

'No, Little One. When He’s ready, they will come up through the black earth as if by themselves.' We kneel down, drop a bulb into opening earth, then wait 'for the forces above and below and beyond our control to work upon' all these things. Son pats the earth down and over and Little One watches.

We bury hope in a tomb of its own.

Like the faith diggers do every day. We bury our swollen prayers in Him who’s raised from the tomb. We lay our hope, full and tender, into the depths of Him and wait in hope for God to resurrect something good. Good always necessitates long waiting.

Every tulip only blossoms after cold months of winter wait. Every human ever unfurled into existence through nine long months of the womb waiting. And the only kingdom that will last for eternity still waits, this millennia-long, unwavering-hope for return of its King. Instead of chafing, we accept that waiting is a strand in the DNA of the Body of Christ.

That this waiting on God is the very real work of the people of God. 

Son digs again and I drop a bulb, life warm, into depths as dark as my friend’s sadness today.

Every person needs hope planted at the bottom of their hole.

Maybe I could plant a bit of hope in my friend’s ache?

I smile all the drive over to my friend’s. Knock on the front door. Read her confusion when she opens her front door, finds me standing there.

'Gotta little spade I can borrow?' I grin, hold out a hand full of bulbs.

'I just wanted to tuck some hope into that hole today. He’ll resurrect good things out of this too– hold on…. "Blessed are all who wait."'

Her chin trembles and she nods.

'They’ll be pink. Tall.' I show her hope with my hands.

'In the corner of the front flower bed? So I can see them from the window.' She manages a smile.

I grab her hand, squeeze tight.

We live in wait.