Tuesday, October 30, 2012

How to help you grow.

Growing, changing, learning, discovering--all some of my favorite things. It's the process that I love, rather than the final destination. In the middle of things, I usually find myself wishing for something more straightforward, more cut-and-dried, longing for some concrete, step-by-step instructions to just figure it out already! Yet, in the end, that isn't what satisfies me because that isn't what makes me grow. That isn't what makes the lessons part of who I am.

I've learned this about myself over the course of the past few years. And I love seeing that same process in other people. The problem: I'm not very good at letting that process happen in other people, especially those closest to me.

So often, I see someone struggling with something so similar to what I've dealt with in the past. I want so badly for them to come to the same understanding that I have--lessons in grace, thankfulness, joy, perseverance...whatever it may be. Unfortunately, I tend to lay it out for them as a step-by-step plan of action (or try to condense all of the details and connections and everything that made my experience meaningful into a little bite-sized speech that loses its significance). I forget that God doesn't work inside a box. He doesn't work the same way in every person. The lessons might ultimately be the same, but the process by which they're learned is unique to each person.

God is personal. He's relational, and that's how He teaches us. The way He communicates with my best friend or my boyfriend or my little brother might be completely unrecognizable to me at first glance...

...and that's a good thing.

It's such proof of how well God knows each of us, not just on a surface level but deeply. He knows how our minds work, He knows our hearts, and He knows exactly what makes us tick. He gets me enough to know to communicate with me through books and lyrics and falling leaves. He knows the jumps my mind makes to connect seemingly unrelated ideas into something so profound.

He knows I'll get it.

If He can do that for me on such a deeply personal level, won't He do the same for everyone else, communicating with them in ways that I might not understand?

The thing is, I understand the concept mentally. I get it. And that leaves me here: how do I live like I get it? How does it look in real life? Because that's what I want to do, both with my life and in my relationships.

I want to be able to foster that kind of growth in other people without resorting to giving unnecessary advice and telling them what they need to do.* I want to help other people discover the answers for themselves, because really, that's what it's all about anyway. That's how we grow, and I want to help people grow. I want to be able to step back and let God do His thing and not get in the way. Still, there's a place for human influence. Where's the balance between sitting back and doing nothing and going too far?

I don't know.
I don't have the answers this time.

This is one of those posts I can't wrap up nice and neat, because I'm still trying to figure it out myself. So I'm asking--have you ever wrestled with this before? I know that the answer varies from situation to situation, but what have some of your experiences been?**

And, I don't know. Maybe this is one of those things that can't ever really be answered, because it can't be put into a box. Maybe there isn't an answer. Maybe it just has to be lived and figured out along the way, different for every single situation. And maybe I need to be okay with that.

*I definitely think advice has its place, but right now, I need to learn not to give it. I have a tendency to think I have the answers, when in reality, I don't at all.
**Think about this in terms of personal relationships, like friendships or marriage or even children, on a spiritual level. That's where I struggle most. How do you help someone grow spiritually without trying to give them all the answers?

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Tennessee to Maine (and places in between)

Last week, Mike and I went on our biggest adventure together yet*: a 5-day road trip from Tennessee to Maine! It was full of new experiences for me, as I'd never been to the northeast at all, or on a major road trip (much less with him).


We left bright and early at 7am from Cleveland, Maryland-bound for the night. One of our best friends, Jon, is from there, so we stayed with his parents for the night. We didn't originally intend to do much extra exploring, but by the time we got close, we realized that we had made incredible time, so we decided on a spontaneous side-trip to Washington, D.C. for a few hours!

Washington, D.C.! 
Georgia & Kentucky, and now Tennessee!
Lincoln Memorial
Love D.C. at night!
I hadn't been there since I was like, seven, so it was really fun to explore the National Mall for awhile! I wish we'd had time to check out a few museums and such, too, but oh well--it's just an excuse for another adventure in the future. ;)

The next morning, we decided that, heck, we made such good time on the first leg of the trip, why not hit another city on the way to Maine? Our choice: New York City!

New York City!
I'll be honest: I was super excited about going. As a general rule, I'm not much of a city girl, but I do enjoy visiting, and NYC is one of those places that I have always wanted to visit at some point. Our friend, Chris, has been, and he basically saved our lives by suggesting we park in New Jersey and take this thing called PATH (basically a subway train from NJ to NY) into the city. Best. idea. ever. For real, if you're ever stopping by, that's the way to go. It's only $2.25 a ticket, and saves you from the nightmare of driving in Manhattan. Believe me--it's worth it.

Anyway. After taking the train to 33rd St. (as far as it goes), we decided to walk to Times Square (super limited time to see the city, so we decided walking was the best way to take in as much as possible). SO CRAZY. Anything you've ever heard about how crowded and lively and huge NYC is? All true. Trust me. It is one city I can honestly say lives up to its reputation.

After that, we decided we wanted to see Central Park. When I say it feels like a breath of fresh air, I'm not kidding or trying to be cliche. It literally feels like you can breathe all of a sudden. (Like I said. Definitely not a big-city kind of girl. Give me mountains and rivers and big open skies any day.) We only walked around the first tiny bit, but I'm pretty sure we'll be visiting again--there is way too much to see!

The little birds made me so happy :)
Since we had already been there for 2 hours and needed to get back on the road, we took the subway back to the PATH station. (Am I lame for having always wanted to ride on the subway in New York? Oh well--another thing to check off my list!) After that, it was a nonstop trip** to Harmony, Maine!

Maine is beautiful. Lots and lots of small towns and rural areas, and trees and mountains and just plain gorgeousness. (It's an interesting experience visiting Maine and NYC in one day. Talk about your polar opposites.) We got there pretty late, but the next day, we got to do some exploring around Moosehead Lake! (We really wanted to see a moose. No such luck, as far as live ones go, but we did see a dead one in the back of some hunter's truck, which was still kinda cool…)

(Random side story: Apparently cops are not the norm. We were looking around in a little shop, when all of a sudden:

"Holy s***!!! What in the world is that doing here?!"

We look outside to see them staring a police car driving through town. ? I found it pretty funny.)

Anyway. The wedding we went to was lovely, and it was good to see a few people I hadn't seen since graduation, albeit a little awkward because I knew very, very few people overall. Oh well.

On our trip back from Maine to Virginia, we really wanted to stop in Boston, but it ended up raining THE ENTIRE TIME from Maine until Hartford, Connecticut. Ugh. Our biggest adventure of that part of the trip was definitely New Jersey.

Oh my goodness. Never again.

Illegal to pump your own gas. (A little bit of shock when a random dude comes up to my car and asks for my credit card. Um, no?) Crazy drivers. To turn left or make a U-turn, you have to turn right (?). There's a town named Buttzville (yes, with a Z). There are signs all over the interstate that say "No Turns Allowed"…when there is nowhere to turn anyway, even if you wanted to. (Like, to turn, you would literally have to jump a guardrail and a ditch. Are these people insane?) Their nickname, "The Garden State," has no particular reason behind it. (Again, ?)

Lesson learned: avoid NJ at all costs on future road trips.***

We finally arrived in Virginia (staying with Jon's brother and sister-in-law this time around), and after waking up to a gorgeous sunrise the next morning...

Not. even. close.
...we headed for Shenandoah National Park to take Skyline Drive (105 miles of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Fall perfection). So, so, so beautiful, especially this time of year! It was peak season for fall foliage, and absolutely worth the $15--even though it rained half the time we were there. Still worth it.

So! There's the abbreviated version of my trip. We're already planning our next one--it was so much fun! (And surprisingly affordable, too, if you do it right.) My only complaint is that I wish we'd had more time. 5 days was nowhere near enough!

*Well. As far as the traditional, concrete, "exploring a place we've never been" sort of adventure goes. Our whole relationship has been something of an adventure, from day one, but that's beside the point here.
**That is, nonstop minus the insane New Jersey traffic. Seriously, I hate driving through NJ.
***Sorry to all you New Jersey natives. I'm sure the state has some wonderful qualities, but forgive me, because I did not see them.