30 Days of Celebration: Highs and Lows

30 Days of Celebration: Highs and Lows

Day 30. Wow.

Sometimes, it’s hard for me to see the growth I’ve made in certain seasons. Especially one like this, where I feel like a teenage boy going through a growth spurt. So much happens, so many emotions, and sometimes I feel like I’m just going to burst.

Today one of my new friends looked me in the eye and told me straight up, “Maddie, you are so hard on yourself. It literally makes me anxious watching you work through things. You do not have to process all of this right now.” And she was right. I am so hard on myself.

When the reality is, I did it! I made it through my first 3 months in my new city! It’s had moments of goodness, but mostly it was just really hard. But I’m learning that that’s ok. Life is full of highs and lows, and I don’t have to make it what it’s not.

I remember where I was sitting when I first began this series, and I remember how I felt. I feel like I’m drowning these days, but I look back and I was drowning way more back then. Just 30 days ago. And so today I celebrate the fact that I’m drowning a little less then I was back then. I’m learning that it’s ok to celebrate even the smallest things like that. And I’m also learning that it’s ok to feel like I’m drowning a little right now.

It’s ok.

I celebrate what I’ve learned about the highs and lows. I’ve learned that the highs kind of celebrate themselves, but the lows need to be recognized. That’s what I’ve found myself doing during this series. I’ve picked the lows to celebrate because I need to celebrate them. I need to know they’re not all bad. They’re hard, but they’re not always bad.

When I began this series I was sitting at a barstool on a rushed Thursday morning, deciding to start this crazy endeavor mostly because I needed some celebration in my life. I needed it so badly. And so I desperately typed out some words and sprinkled them on me before I ran out the door.

But today, I sit on the couch under the light of the Christmas tree I just put up in my little temporary home. My new friends are coming over in 15 minutes. And I don’t write quite so desperately. I don’t hold on quite so tightly to the way I thought my life was supposed to be. I’m learning to let go. Of expectations, sure. But mostly of understanding.

I don’t need to understand today.

I’ve learned to be my own best friend. To encourage myself. To build myself up. To remind myself that I’m a safe place. Isn’t it crazy how hard it is to be broken, even in front of ourselves?

I’m realizing that I don’t need to process the hectic craziness of the last 3 months. I just don’t need to. I can let go. It’ll process itself on its own time. And tonight, I can have a Christmas party with my new friends. And just be thankful.

Praise God. He is good, all the time.

30 Days of Celebration: Riding the Waves

30 Days of Celebration: Riding the Waves

It’s not easy to change basically everything about your life, but it’s also not all bad.

It’s interesting, I’ve seen in myself, what happens when outer change gives permission for inner change. Sometimes, when you’re always in the same place with the same people, your heart and mind desire changes but you stay the same because everything around you stays the same. Maybe you don’t feel like you have permission to change, that the people who have known you forever won’t understand. And so, you fight the change inside of you because you don’t know how to become a new person walking the same old streets.

But when your circumstances change, and the faces you see every day change, suddenly you change. You don’t even mean to, it just happens naturally, probably because your heart has been begging for reforms for so long but you just didn’t let it.

But last night, I sat around a small table in a Mexican restaurant downtown in my new city with three new friends, beautiful ladies with hearts of gold. And I thought about how crazy it was that these girls didn’t know me from Adam three months ago, and I didn’t know them. We all have vastly different stories, and only by God’s perfect plan are we even in each other’s lives, did we end up eating tacos together on a Wednesday night in November.

And I found myself saying things that I never thought I would be allowed to say, like a prisoner finally set free. Saying things about my doubts and my fears and my vast imperfections that have always been there but been afraid to show their faces. But I said these things because I knew that I was allowed to, and I marveled because I was loved in the eyes of those around me.

I was accepted, not for who I’ve always pretended to be, but for who I actually am. This move did something to me, and I no longer could put on a face. I literally have not had the energy. The first month I was here, I just cried. All. The. Time. And I desperately wanted these new people in my life to understand me, to know the “real” me, to see who I was in college.

But now I see that they know the most real version of me, and what I usually give people is a fake. I don’t actually have my life together, I can’t actually find humor in everything. Some things just break my heart, and make me doubt a good God, and send me reeling, lost. Sometimes I forget my own name and lack confidence in every single way. I doubt my worth, and my value, and believe lies.

But I have a good Shepherd, and this sheep leans into that and follows His voice among the darkness and confusion. And some days, that’s all I have.

 

So today I celebrate the change, and the person it is making me. It’s terrifying. Overwhelming. But I know it’s good.

I read once that change is kind of like waves in the ocean, that if you try to stand up to them, you’ll be knocked down in an instant. But if you ride them, if you go with the flow, you’ll be OK. In fact, it’s kind of fun. But it takes trust. I have to trust that there really is a good God who really does have the best in store for me. I have to trust that the faith I had when I moved to South Carolina three months ago still applies today, that this really is where I’m supposed to be.

That these changes really are for my good. That these waves really will bring me to the right place.

30 Days of Celebration: Coffee Creamer

30 Days of Celebration: Coffee Creamer

It’s not a properly lived morning if I don’t smell the coffee creamer.

I’m a 23 year old white girl, so coffee creamer in my world comes in all different scents. Vanilla (the classic), hazelnut, pumpkin spice (what what), peppermint mocha. This morning it was creme brulee. (I know, I know. Cringe.)

But I have to admit, it’s one of my simple joys. Before I pour it into my mug, I just have to take a whiff. My vanilla creamer always smelling like Lucky Charms marshmallows, and if that’s not a good start to my morning, I don’t know what is.

Smelling coffee creamer is kind of life taking a huge, tasty stretch the moment you wake up, or wearing your favorite pair of jeans, or doing cartwheels. It’s just an inherently wonderful thing, at least if you ask me. (I know cartwheels aren’t for everyone.) I love inherently wonderful things.

Long runs, freshly painted nails, a brand new book, a really old book, yellow leaves, hugs from friends, honest conversations, pasta, Christmas music, presents, laughter, a new pen, baby feet.

Golden hour, stupid YouTube videos, soft blankets, picture books, straightened hair, conversations around the dinner table, dancing, more dancing, playing the piano, campfires, board games with family.

These are my simple joys. Some of them. And today, I celebrate them.

30 Days of Celebration: Good Books and Great Authors

30 Days of Celebration: Good Books and Great Authors

Is there really anything better than a good novel?

I mean, really.

I just, love stories. I love stupid stories, I love sappy stories, I love sad stories. When I was in middle school, I would read at least a book a week, always caught up in a story. Granted, they were all about vampires and 12 year-olds falling in love, but all the best books are, right?

For some reason, in the season, I stopped reading. I didn’t mean to. I guess I figured I didn’t have time for it. And, to be fair, when you spend 98% of your day worrying and freaking out about the future, you don’t have time for ridiculous things like having fun or doing something you love.

But when I was home for Thanksgiving, I picked up a book, and it kind of felt like coming home. Books have so often been my home, and my closest friend. There was a time when I wouldn’t leave home without my novel, and I was never not in one. Ever. I felt naked without having a story to fantasize about and characters to root for. And every chance I got, I would jump back into the story, nose in the book, completely oblivious to the things around me.

I like thinking about how God wrote the story of my life, like the very best novel. And I like to think about how He reads it from Heaven, every day, and He smiles because He knows the good parts and the ending and He’s not afraid of it the way I am. Hard seasons seem pointless until I remember that any author worth their salt writes conflict into the story. No one would read a book where nothing ever changes, and no character development ever happens. And God’s worth His salt. So He writes those things into my story.

What makes it hard is that we can’t flip the the last page. We can only live the one we’re on, and we simply have to trust the One who knows things that we don’t. But, really, all we have to trust is that our Author wrote a good story. One made especially for you and for me. I think celebration, in its essence, is just realizing that. It’s being thankful to be in the story.

Just like the characters in your favorite novel. You read on because you want to see what happens next. Why don’t we live our stories with that same eager expectation? I really think it’s because we don’t trust that anyone good is writing it.

But the Bible says that every day of our lives were written in God’s book before one of them happened. Man, if I could actually grasp that in my heart. Would’t that be something. Wouldn’t that change the way I saw everything?

 

 

 

30 Days of Celebration: Honesty

30 Days of Celebration: Honesty

I’m not very good at being honest. Not with others, not with myself, and not with God.

I don’t like to be anything but fine all of the time, and when I’m not I don’t know what to say. I don’t know how to voice the way I feel, which is particularly difficult because I’m one of those people who feel a lot of things.

But these days, I can’t afford not to be honest, not with myself and not with God. There’s too much change, and there’s too much transition, and I drown in my thoughts if I don’t put them in the light. And that takes honesty.

And honestly, these past three months have at times felt torturous. I went from one way of life in college and then everything was flipped upside down in an instant. I don’t like time alone, and I get a lot of it. I don’t know what to say to myself and I don’t function well.

Honestly, my head feels like it’s in a cloud most of the time. I don’t know how to be an “adult”, and it freaks me out. My faith is tested these days, and it doesn’t always stand up very straight. I go weeks without really reading my Bible. How do I take the faith I’ve claimed my entire life and actually give it feet?

Honestly, I know God lead me to South Carolina, but most of the time it feels like a mistake. Surely, it shouldn’t be this hard. I shouldn’t feel like I’m losing my mind, and I shouldn’t be so tired. I should know how to rest better. I shouldn’t be scared all the time. And I shouldn’t blame South Carolina. But, honestly, sometimes I do.

 

But it’s ok. That’s what honesty does, is it puts all of the monsters in the back of my head into the light and I realize they’re not actually all that scary. They only have power over me because I give it to them. I give all of my fears and doubts and worries little dark rooms in the back of my brain and I let them sit there, unattended, spreading poison to everything they touch. But honesty is the antidote, honesty is what flings open the closet door and gets them out into the sizzling sunlight.

And there, my little monsters slowly die. They can’t thrive under such exposure. They lose their power. And I realize that everyone has little monsters, and we would all be so much better off I we just took them out for a change.

 

I had coffee with an old friend last weekend, and after updating her on life in South Carolina, she told me that she was surprised. I had told her of my struggles and fears and she told me that she thought I was doing just fine. She had no idea. And why do we make room for such lies? Why do we tell each other half-truths? What good does that do?

I celebrate a God who lets me be honest. He’s not afraid of it. He encourages it, and it is medicine to my soul. I don’t know what I’m doing, but God does, and somehow today that has to be enough for me.

 

30 Days of Celebration: Old Friends

30 Days of Celebration: Old Friends

Today I’m thankful for old friends.

In a season of new friendships, there is so much power in seeing an old one. This morning, I drove 30 minutes through the freezing rain to meet an old friend. We met on the stoop of a storefront, shivering against the cold, to find our chosen cafe closed. So we did what you do when you don’t know where to go – we went to Starbucks. We turned two armchairs so that they faced each other, and as the bitter wind hit us every time the door opened, we sat knee to knee and talked about our lives.

3 hours passed like it was 20 minutes, and I bathed in the reality that this person knew me before this stage of life and she knows me now. She was able to shed light on my tendencies, on my struggles, on why my mind reacts to these changes that way it does.

And we talked about her, and the college she still attends, the one I’ve left behind. I told her what I wished I had known as a sophomore, and we reveled in the fact that we’re learning the same life lessons at the same time.

So many “you too?” moments. And that’s what friendships are for. It’s realizing you’re not actually as crazy as you think you are, and sharing laughs over our misfortunes, accepting the reality together that life hasn’t turned out the way we thought it would. It’s a place to admit that you have a broken heart, and to say it plain, the way it has been begging to be said.

And new friends can be good for that, but there’s nothing quite like old friends (like Ben Rector would say). Tomorrow I go back to my new friends, and I’m thankful for them, but I’m also thankful that it’s okay to revisit where I’ve been.

I think I’ve been viewing this transition out of college as a thick black line, where college was on one side and my new life in South Carolina is on the other side, and they can’t touch, and I must leave the past behind. But I’m learning that it doesn’t need to be that cut and dry. Instead, this change can be like various shades of grey, and it can take time. I can give my heart time to move on.

And today, it was ok to meet with an old friend. I’m really glad I did.

There’s nothing quite like it.

 

30 Days of Celebration: Tree Farms and Traditions

30 Days of Celebration: Tree Farms and Traditions

I come from a live Christmas tree kind of family.

This means that every year, usually the day after Thanksgiving, we load up the mini van and head out to the Christmas tree farm. And we walk around all the trees and choose the best of the best of all the Douglas Firs. And we load it up, on the roof of our car, bring it home, and listen to the Steven Curtis Chapman Christmas album as we hang our extremely home-made ornaments complete with macaroni hot-glued onto pictures of us in 3rd grade.

Today is no exception. And the traditions remind me of the great story written for me, the one I don’t deserve, but one that begs for celebration.

And today, after a bumpy season of transition in so many ways, the tradition is especially powerful to my heart. And though I’m tempted to question it and wonder why I was given so much when so many have so little, I am reminded over and over that it’s ok to just take it for what it is. It’s ok to laugh with my siblings, to take pictures with my sister, to enjoy the day given to me.

And so today, I drink hot chocolate and watch Elf with the people that mean the most to me, and I draw the line at anything short of celebration. It’s not my job to understand. It’s my job to celebrate.

Sometimes, I get really caught up in everything I can’t control or change, and therefore wonderful realities and gifts are overlooked because I’m so caught up by my lack of control. But I’m learning, my lack of control is a gift, because I can’t bear the load. It’s not my job to control things, but to appreciate the way God does.

I asked a mentor of mine recently for one sentence of advice. If she could give me one nugget of wisdom in this season, what would it be? She told me that where I am, whatever season of life and whatever situation I find myself in, to trust the One who brought me there. To trust that He knows what He’s doing, that He really has the best for me.

And that’s what I remember this tree-cutting day. I remember that I’m a part of something bigger than me, and that the Great Author is writing the story. And I rest into that, no matter how impossible it seems at times.

30 Days of Celebration: Rest is Okay

30 Days of Celebration: Rest is Okay

I’m thankful today, on Thanksgiving, after 6 months of absolute insanity in my life, that I don’t have to be anything I’m not.

My mind has literally not been able to keep up with it all, but I’m learning that that’s ok. I didn’t realize, growing up, how much pressure I put on myself all of the time to be a certain version of myself, one that’s capable and goal-driven and gets things done on the daily. These days, I just can’t. It takes all of my energy to transition my entire life to South Carolina, and in the moments of rest I’m just tired. 

But of course I’m tired! I slave-drive myself into thinking that tiring things shouldn’t make me tired, but they do, and that’s ok.

And today I’m thankful that’s it’s ok. It’s ok to need to rest, and it’s ok to rest.

It’s a bit of an act of humility, I’m learning. The world will keep spinning if I take a day to read a novel for fun. Why do I think I can’t?

 

So today I celebrate because I don’t have to take myself too seriously. God just doesn’t require from me what I require from myself. So I can rest, and breathe, and be thankful for the woman I am today, even if she’s not always the person I would choose to be

But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do,
    what God is looking for in men and women.
It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor,
    be compassionate and loyal in your love,
And don’t take yourself too seriously—
    take God seriously.

Micah 6:8

30 Days of Celebration: Home

30 Days of Celebration: Home

Home. Today I celebrate home.

After 3 months in South Carolina, the car rolled back into my Pennsylvanian driveway last night. It’s a weird feeling, to come back to your family’s home when you’re making your “own” somewhere else. This in-between time can be so overwhelming at times (ok, pretty much all the time), but now I’m home. And I pray that I can take it all for what it is, not what I expect it to be.

But today, I guess I celebrate the things that don’t change. Same house on the same street in the same town in Pennsylvania. Same grumpy old dog. Same floor lamps and bar stools and bed that I’ve slept in since I was 8. Same crazy family with the same inside jokes, and the same way they always have a way of reminding me of my story, just being near them.

New is good, but old is home. New will become home, over time, but I’m learning that it’s ok that it isn’t yet. It will take time to make my South Carolina town home. More than 3 months, and that’s ok.

But old is familiar, and it helps me breathe and think and laugh in a way that the new can’t all of the time. It helps me figure out how I feel, what parts of my heart are still broken over all the change. What parts of me are changed for the better.

It helps me be honest with God, to cry out as the disciples did in the boat – “Do you not see? Do you not care that we are perishing?” Do you see my broken heart in a new state? And I know He does. Home reminds me of that. Home helps me remember.

 

30 Days of Celebration: Grace for the Exhausted

30 Days of Celebration: Grace for the Exhausted

It’s the day before I head home for Thanksgiving and I am exhausted. 

Actually, I’m not sure that exhausted even covers it. I feel like I “wake up” but a very heavy sheet of rock has covered me and actually I can’t move and it seems all but impossible to get out of bed.

These last three months have been many things. Exciting, new, memorable, challenging. Overwhelming, scary, stretching. But restful has not been one of them.

Rest for my body, sure. But more than anything, rest for my mind. It took me several months to realize just how badly I allowed anxiety and worry to rule my mind, and when they are on the throne there is just no rest. There can’t be. There’s always something to freak out about, to be uneasy about, to work through over and over until it feels like poison and stings to the touch.

Possibly the most interesting discovery of this season has been how critical I am of myself, how I won’t let myself be who I have to be. It took me a while to realize that the constant criticism about how I was adjusting and feeling was coming from no one but me. I became a slave driver with myself, never satisfied by my rate of adjustment.

But today I’m thankful that God doesn’t treat me that way.

The Bible describes me as a sheep, which for a while I took offense to. But on my most sheep-worthy days (AKA, every day lately), I find rest in it. I’m not expected to be anything more than a sheep. Sheep are like the dumbest and least productive animals ever, so if I’m nothing but dumb and unproductive, I’m actually right on track. Which kind of rocks, actually.

Without the faith in a loving God, being a sheep means you’re eaten alive. In a “survival of the fittest” world, being a sheep is deadly. So you have to be a slave driver, you have to strive, you have to somehow be more than you know that you are.

But I woke up this morning, and I literally sat on my bedroom floor with a blanket wrapped around me absolutely certain I could be nothing more than a ridiculously exhausted version of myself. But I’m a sheep, remember? What do you expect?

And I am thankful beyond measure that I have a good Shepherd, one who lays down His life for me, who will fight off the bears and save me. One who came so that I could have life abundantly, so that I can go in and come out and find pasture.

I’ve always loved John 10, but it has taken on an entirely new meaning these days, when my sheep-iness is blindingly obvious. Thank you, Jesus, for being the good Shepherd. I know I need one.

 So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 

John 10