30 Days of Celebration: Answered Prayers and Airplane Seats

30 Days of Celebration: Answered Prayers and Airplane Seats

I have always dreamed of adventure. I have prayed humongous prayers, increasingly unaware who I was dealing with, that God actually hears them, that He actually answers them. I am realizing now that dealing with God is not like making promises to a kindergartener, and it’s not like asking favors from a friend.

I write this as I sit in seat 22B, parked in Atlanta, Georgia, the plane about to take flight to Columbus. After 3 months of chaotic transition into my new, I am taking a weekend to visit once was, my friends from college. I am a stranger to loneliness and independence, I am learning. I thought I was independent, but I have consistently been recalibrate these days, learning more about myself than I ever thought I would. All I know is sitting in the Atlanta airport, settling into seat 22B, I don’t think I have ever felt quite so alone.

As I was packing my bag for this little excursion, I came across a letter that had fallen on the ground along my bedside table, forgotten. I picked it up and stuck it in my carry-on, remembering its contents, and as I sat in the airport just minutes ago I unwrapped its well-worn ridges and let the familiar scrawl speak words to my heart.

It is a letter I wrote to myself, half a year ago. An assignment from a friend to pen words to our future selves, one I had forgotten I did. But a few months ago, it came in the mail to my new South Carolina address, and the words inside hit me like a hand grenade then just as they did today.

“Dear Maddie,” I wrote, “I was asked to write a letter to myself in 6 months. I want to put to paper not the woman I am now, but the woman I hope to be when I read this.

Today I cried and prayed, kneeling at my futon, as I consider where I will be. Thought I don’t know where that will be, I know what I want. I want to leave comfort. I want to be satisfied by Jesus alone. I want adventure and to do what I’m scared to do. I want to be the foreigner and student of a new culture and land.

Who will I be in 6 months? I hope I’m brave, that I have gone after the calling placed on my heart, no matter how crazy and big. I hope I learn something new every day. I hope my brain keeps healing and I can be more present.

I hope I’m traveling. And singling. And reading a really good book. And crying a lot, because life is about living all.

So much will happen in these next few months. What will these years hold?

My advice: GO.

Begin again, everyday, and never, ever, let fear drive.

From the cornfields of Ohio, Maddie”

I felt the tears leave me, as they so easily do, incomparably overwhelmed that I have done just that. I have followed the calling placed on my heart. I am traveling. I am doing things, daily it seems, that require bravery and faith, more than I have ever had to muster up before. I am a foreigner and student of a new culture and land. And these things are, by far, the hardest things I have ever done.

So many days, I would willingly give this new life up and rejoin the old, the one that’s gone. Days I feel the change will swallow me whole, or at least change me into some unrecognizable version of myself that I’m not ready to meet. Days I feel like a stranger lives in my head, caring about things and thinking of things the old me just wouldn’t think about. And if I’m honest, it kind of freaks me out. Change has a way of doing that.

But I was reminded, as I sat cross-legged at gave A34, that I am walking in answered prayer. I asked for a faith-growing season, and I have been given one. In fact, I have been given more than I could have ever imagined, not in a million years, and surely not 6 months ago as I thought through what these months would bring.

So I have a choice. I can wallow in the loneliness, in the buckets of faith and bravery expected from me daily. Or I can celebrate it all: the change working it’s way through me, the newness, the adventure, the stories. The people I sit next to on the flight, the friends waiting for me in Ohio this weekend.

My story, the one I don’t deserve and yet have been given in abundance. 

30 Days of Celebration: The Unappreciated Gift

30 Days of Celebration: The Unappreciated Gift

Sometimes it hits me how very little I deserve all that I have.

My very life is a gift, for starters. It was given to me. I am not my own, I was bought with a price, in every way.

But even more than that, I have been very overwhelmed these days by how undeserving I am of my day-to-day. The house I’m living in, the job I have, the friends I’m surrounded with. They are all gifts, none of them earned. I think, in the past, I have convinced myself that I “deserve” the things in my life. But I don’t.

Sometimes I don’t know what to do with all of these gifts. How can I receive them, if I have nothing to pay in return? Why do I have them all in the first place? And I will spend all of my time questioning all that I have and not celebrating it.

God has lately been urging me to think of it all as Christmas morning. It is as if He is giving me gifts, wrapped in beautiful bows, and instead of tearing apart the paper and delighting in what’s inside, I stare at the box. And I ask Him why He gave it to me. I question His motives. And I tell Him I don’t deserve it.

And so the present sits there, untouched, unopened, unappreciated.

And God, the Giver, the one who put intricate detail into it, the one who thought it all out especially for me, is sad. I can imagine, at least. I can imagine the feeling of giving such an incredible gift and to watch it go unappreciated.

And that’s what my life is: an incredible gift. I want to appreciate it. I don’t want to stare at it, I don’t want to question it, I don’t want to neglect it. I want to tear the paper open, rip into the box, behold the wonder of it all, and jump around the living room with a smile across my face because I have been given something amazing.

Something worth celebrating.

 

30 Days of Celebration: Where I Never Thought I’d Be

30 Days of Celebration: Where I Never Thought I’d Be

3:45 on Wednesdays is an interesting time for me.

Every week at that time I find myself driving down the backroads of town, off the beaten path, parking alongside an old church. I get out of my car and gather my things and make my way to the front door, overwhelmed every week. I push my way inside and am ushered into a back, back, back room of this church in the back woods of my new town.

I grab my Bible, and I gather my thoughts, and soon 15 children join me, settling themselves into old red pews that line the room.

It’s my job, these 9 months, to teach these kids about the love of Jesus.

The church is musty, and it takes me 7 tries to pronounce the kids’ names correctly. They’re rambunctious, disobedient, loud, and no matter how many times I ask them to stay seated and listen to the Bible lesson, they don’t.

And I love them. So much.

We wrestle through an hour together. Nothing goes as planned. They talk through my teaching half the time, and can’t sit still. They’re overly occupied with my treasure box of goodies. Sometimes I think I lost one of them, only to find out they’re laying under a pew in the back of the room. It’s chaos.

Most of the time.

But then there are moments that I’m teaching and I see one little pair of eyes staring intently back, listening. And one of the little girls loves the hand motions we do with the songs. And one little boy alwaybrings his worksheet back, handing it to me with pride. And one little girl snuggles up to me, big brown eyes, asking if she can sit next to me even though I’m the one up front teaching.

And yesterday, as I left, as I wheeled my cart of supplies back to my little car, they came running out of the church: the boys. The older, “macho” little ones, and they hugged me around the waist. And I felt like those hugs ran warmth all the way through my nose, them not realizing I needed it as much as they.

I never thought I would meet these kids. There is no equation that puts me into their lives. It is only God who could lead me to such a place. But these kids, like I, are like sheep, and I get to share my shepherd with them for one hour every Wednesday.

And I greatly anticipate what God is up to in all of this.

30 Days of Celebration: The Discomfort Zone

30 Days of Celebration: The Discomfort Zone

I like my comfort zones, which is exactly why God rips me from them, I’m sure.

I used to live in my comfort zone. It was full of people, familiarity, knowing my place, feeding off of the opinions of others. I would look to people to know who I was, what I was doing, why I should be at peace.

I would say, on a good day, my comfort zone is 90% people and 10% time with myself. I’m an extrovert, to the max. So now, when my days are more lopsided than they have ever been, and I have way more alone time than I’ve ever had, I am having to learn to adjust. I am having to live in my discomfort zone, at least for a season, and it is painful but good.

I have to learn how to love myself, how to talk to myself, how to be with myself as I drive down the road or journal the day in my room. I know it’s good for an introvert to learn how to be with people, and for an extrovert to learn how to be alone. They’re both good.

What I’m doing today, though, is celebrating this change. It is good, and I will treat is as such. I know I am learning a powerful skill, and that time will make it easier. If I treat this season as the enemy, it will seem to me as such, but if I welcome it with open arms, for exactly what it is, I know I will learn so much.

Sometimes I get scared and I need to pray for God to open me up to the world around me, and to embrace it for exactly what it is. I’m not at college anymore, I’m not in the world I used to live in. I’m in a new one, but I’m still me. And I can be here, just as I could be there. It’s an adventure, and I’m determined to embrace it.

 

 

30 Days of Celebration: The Peace of Christ

30 Days of Celebration: The Peace of Christ

I don’t know about you, but I need peace spoon-fed to me about every 7 seconds these days.

All too often, it becomes all too much. The new job, the exuberant amounts of alone time I’m not used to, the new town, new streets, new house, new people.

I read on a plaque somewhere that the will of God will not take you where the grace of God will not protect you. I agree, but I would rewrite it: the will of God will not take you where the peace of God will not hold you. The will of God brought me to South Carolina, and the peace of God has held me through it all, if I’ve let it.

Sometimes I disregard His peace, deciding that I have to do His job. This morning I read Colossians, in which it reads:

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace…”

We must let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts, for it is our calling. I don’t know about you, but I get very caught up in my sense of calling. Where am I supposed to go, what am I supposed to do? I imagine calling from the Lord to be adventurous and gutsy, something that results in muddy hands and calloused feet.

But Paul says that we were called to peace. That is our calling, as Christians. To be people of peace. Peace, surely, with others, but also with ourselves. The peace that can withhold life’s biggest transitions, the peace that results in rest.

It is peace that holds me together these days. Peace and trust. If I really believe and trust in a God who began my life, hemming me in, molding me, then I believe that that same God will hold my life and keep my life all my days. And that results in peace.

I need peace in sanctification. It is an unsettling feeling, to be changed from the inside out, to have desires and motives and passions transformed to conform more to the will of God. It’s unnerving at times, and scary when I let it be. But it is good, and the peace of Christ covers it all.

Today I celebrate my right to peace. I don’t push myself too hard, don’t speak harsh words in my own mind. I meet myself right where I am, because I can’t be anywhere else, and because that’s exactly what Christ does. He meets me with peace and love, no matter what battered up version of Maddie I happen to be at the moment.

That’s the peace of Christ. And that is cause for celebration.

30 Days of Celebration: How I’m Made

30 Days of Celebration: How I’m Made

I’m a ridiculously sentimental person.

I cry a lot.

If there’s a field nearby, I will want to frolic in it.

I enjoy stupidity.

I crave adventure, even though my heart is so tender sometimes I can’t handle it.

I think too hard.

I take myself too seriously.

I set ridiculous goals.

And sometimes I’m afraid to celebrate these things. Sometimes my own intensity freaks me out. Sometimes I think I was surely made wrong.

But it’s just how I was made. I was made to be the one that cries so others know it’s ok. I was made to feel deeply, collect my thoughts, and put them on paper. I was made to get things done, to see visions of what things can be but aren’t yet. I was made to be childish and tender hearted, to think way too highly of the world. I was made to be whole-hearted (in every way, in every season). I was made to crave community.

I was made to love people so intensely that my heart breaks when we draw apart. Made to love stories. Made to love music with all that I am.

And I love it. I love how I was made. Hemmed in, behind and before, different from anyone else.

 

30 Days of Celebration: Loss Is A Good Thing

30 Days of Celebration: Loss Is A Good Thing

Loneliness is funny, because it has absolutely nothing to do with the amount of people around you.

It’s such a weird feeling, moving to a new town, in a new stage of life. I have met so many people these past 3 months- wonderful people, who care for me and bring me into their homes and feed me. And I am so thankful for them, and I know that time will grow and foster deep relationships of knowing and being known by these new faces, but it’s so not cut and dry.

For every new friend I am reminded of an old one, ripped from my days by time and distance and the will of God, and not by choice. Loving them is celebrating their new adventures, as well as mine, but they take the knowing of me with them.

My new faces don’t know the way I celebrated my 21st birthday, or what table I sat at every day for lunch in 7th grade. They don’t know the parts of me that grew during my 4 years of college- the ups and downs of singleness, the gatherings on futons full of laughter, that one time I played in the snow right outside my dorm window as my roommate judged me (lovingly, of course).

And they will know me, these new faces, but they will know me differently. They will never know the version of me my old faces did, and I can’t anticipate what version of me they will make the acquaintance of. She will be bold and gutsy and overly-vulnerable, I’m sure, but she won’t be the same.

And I mourn that, in a way.

But I also celebrate it.

I am learning that the Christian life is all about change. The Bible repeatedly speaks of change, and how meeting Christ means you should not and will not be the same. And I realize with increasing measure that I am better off for it.

I love books. I really think there is nothing better than being in the middle of an incredible novel, one that keeps you up at night and convinces you that sleep is optional. I have been thinking lately how utterly ridiculous it would be to get to the really good part, the part that has you on the edge of your seat, and then to just sit on that same page forever. Not turning it, not moving forward.

That’s not how really great stories work. The great stories move forward, with twists and turns and trial and laughter. They have long nights and heartbreaks. They have weddings and parties. They have it all, and God doesn’t write my story any differently.

He moves me forward.

Knowing how much it will hurt, knowing how much the change will feel like a scalpel to my soul. But He wrote a good story for me, and He refuses to not see it through. He refuses to sit on that same page.

I think the most painful aspect of my current page turn is one of losing all that knew me, and feeling like I lost a part of myself in the process. But today I celebrate it for a change, because there are surely so many parts of myself I can afford to lose. I fear loss, as does most everybody I’m sure, and it can paralyze me if I let it.

But Jesus spoke of loss as a good thing. He said that if we lose our lives we will find them. If we lose our minds we will be given a new one. If we lose all we own we will have treasures in Heaven. I can hear Him cheering me on as I lose the life-stage of college I miss so dearly, knowing that loss is a good thing.

Knowing that it’s all designed to create in me a new Maddie, the one I’m supposed to be now.

 

30 Days of Celebration: Under-thinking

30 Days of Celebration: Under-thinking

I’m an over-thinker.

Or, perhaps a better way to put it, I’m a person who over-thinks. It’s not my identity, but for whatever reason it’s a thing I do.

The mind is a funny thing. It races and flies way faster than my legs can, and way too often I can’t make it stop. And so it thinks, and thinks, and over-thinks. And, like a runner at the end of a race, it falls exhausted sometimes, crashing and burning.

I think often about the words that Jesus spoke, ones I desperately cling to.

Come to me, all who are weary and heavy burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

Matthew 11:28-30

I know Jesus watches me trying to figure out things I will never understand, or running and re-running harsh words over in my mind, or worrying about everything under the sun, and just wishes I wouldn’t.

Do you know what those verses say to me? They tell me that I have full permission to under-think.

I think back to an earlier post I wrote, and I celebrate that it’s not my job to understand the details of it all. Life is not a gift meant to be over-analyzed, but lived.

 

So I live, in this moment. I’m sitting in a cute corner shop in a town that I love, Bibles open with a new friend. My mustard-colored journal sits on my right, full of musings and prayers. My half-drunk cup of water stares me down, begging me to hydrate to dominate.

I think of the run I’ll take later, 6 miles if I can. I think of the brother who lives down the road and opens up his house to me simply because he loves me. I think of his new dog. I think of the show I’ve recently gotten into and anticipate the plot twists that will surely send me reeling.

I think about the nap I’ll probably take later.

I find it strange that I let myself sleep every night, don’t think twice about sitting down to rest my weary muscles, but feel no freedom to rest my mind, even for a moment. Surely, there is something I need to worry about. Surely, there is something to fear.

But the freedom of faith is that I really don’t have to fear. I really can rest. I really don’t have to overthink. I have full freedom to sit down on the side of the road and let things be, rest my legs and mind that have run so hard and fast for so long.

The thing about this life-transition is that it is kind of scary. I really don’t know what I’m doing. I really am in a new place, with new people, and new daily routines. And, apart from faith, there really is a lot to worry about. Where will I be 7 months from now? Where will I live? Where will I work?

But then I remember my story. How God has provided everything I need, always. How today I live in a home provided by God, have a job provided by God, surrounded by people provided by God. So I’m going to under-think and trust instead, because that faith has never let me down before.

Today I celebrate the freedom to think 1,000 less thoughts, and letting the faith and rest make its way through my weary mind.

 

30 Days of Celebration: Rainy Days

30 Days of Celebration: Rainy Days

It’s raining today in South Carolina. I woke up to it, and most definitely wanted to stay in bed because dang it’s cozy.

Rain is funny. It is so out of my control. I don’t choose when it rains, how hard it rains, when it stops raining. It can be humbling. Sometimes it doesn’t rain when you want it to or it does rain when you desperately wish it wouldn’t.

I was seeing a certain counselor a few years back for a season, and I will never forget one of the sessions we had. After pouring my heart out to him, explaining my fears and hopes and difficulties, he walked up to the large notepad in his office and wrote one word:

Control.

I was taken aback. He began to explain that so many of my emotional problems centered around this issue of control, and my deep fear of losing it. I left his office that day honestly feeling like he pegged me all wrong, but as time has gone on it is eery to realize how right he was.

I crave control, as so many of us do. Which is ironic, because like I said in an earlier post, I’ve never even had it in the first place. I had a wise mentor once tell me that I will never have peace until I trust that a good God has everything under control, and that He is watching out for me.

Rain is a reminder for me. It’s a reminder that I’m not in control, but that Someone beautiful is. I love rain- the smell of it, the way it hits the road and sticks to spider webs and creates fog. It makes my hair wet and creates puddles that I splash in.

One of my favorite memories is one in Africa the summer after I graduated high school. It was storming so hard that the water went out in our guesthouse, so we washed our hair in the rain. And we laughed and celebrated the power that didn’t belong to us.

Rain makes things grow. Grass, trees, flowers, and me.

Today it made sounds on my window as I read my Bible, the pitter patter that matches the rhythm of my heart. It’s awesome, this world we live in. So greatly outside of our control, but so intensely beautiful, down to the single rain drop. I am learning that I don’t need to be in control of the forecast or my own life, but it takes trust. A lot of trust. Because the fog from the rain makes my future pretty hazy, and I need to learn that that’s ok.

Today I celebrate the rain.

30 Days of Celebration: What Is

30 Days of Celebration: What Is

I don’t know about you, but I’m constantly complaining about what I don’t have. Or, the way my life doesn’t look.

If I’m spending exuberant amounts of time with people, I complain that I don’t have enough alone time. If all I have is alone time, I complain I don’t have more time with people. When I lived in a dorm, I wished I had more room. Now that I have more room, I wish desperately to be back in a dorm. When I don’t have a job, all I want under this blue sky is a job. Then when I have a job, I dread it. I don’t want to go and I find everything wrong with it to complain to my friends.

So, today, I’m just going to celebrate what is.

Like I mentioned earlier, I’m a part of a really great faith and leadership development program through a church in South Carolina. Through the program I’m given a host home, a job, classes I get to take, friends that are doing the program with me.

And it has struck me lately that I have been finding every opportunity to complain about just how “hard” it is. And it is that, certainly. Moving across the country on a week’s notice and changing everything about your surroundings is no joke, nor is a major life stage transition. Never let anyone “should” you about how that makes you feel.

But I make the problem so often of equating hard with bad. Hard’s not bad. It’s just hard. In fact, difficult things are often the greatest things that can ever happen to you and me. So today I celebrate the difficulties. I celebrate learning how to cope with a major transition, learning how to stand on my own two feet and know who I am without all the familiarity. I celebrate the growth in my faith as I put trusting in God to an actual test.

Instead of all the newness being bad, I choose to see it as good. I already have a million memories from this time, and I will surely have more. Dinners around long tables, boat trips, movie nights, laughter with my host sisters, runs around the block.

Part of my job is going out to an after school program every Wednesday and holding a bible club for the kids there. I can already tell it will be the most difficult thing I do every week, and easily the most rewarding. The kids are vibrant and energetic, and I can tell we’re going to have an incredible amount of fun. It will be unpolished and hectic most of the time, I’m sure, and I think the best time spent always is.

I accept the craziness of my life right now. I accept the grief-filled moments of college being in the past. I accept my usual inability to grasp what is on my plate for today. I just meet myself here, exactly as I am. I let today be what it is for me, not what I hope it would be.

“All the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.”

Psalm 139:16

Today is one of those days, ordained for me. I’m not gonna skip the page, skim the letters, flip to the back. I’m gonna read it, soak it in, celebrate the characters, anticipate the plot twists, underline the good parts. I know that’s what God does.

So why don’t I?