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)