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: 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: Heart Medicine

30 Days of Celebration: Heart Medicine

It’s not even a little bit hard to celebrate today.

My heart still sings as I think back to the last couple of days. I visited my favorite little town in Ohio, and my heart was filled to the brim just being there.

It’s odd, visiting your alma mater just months after graduating, feeling like you’ve been gone for ages and yet everything seems exactly the same. But I needed it.

I needed the late night boy talks in the dorm, laughing hysterically on the air mattress splayed across the floor. I needed the Christmas decorations in the student center. I needed the hugs (ALL the hugs), and to be reminded how precious it is to invest in the lives of others. I needed the familiarity of it all, and I breathed it in like it was medicine.

I love that campus. I love the cafeteria – the cereal dispensers, the soggy breadsticks, the chocolate milk nozzle. I love the stiff furniture in the dorm lounges. I love the lake, and the walks around the lake and the reflection of the sunset in the lake. I love the classrooms where I learned about myself and God and random things about biology and stuff that I’ll surely forget.

I love the fact that suddenly I can think, and breathe, and laugh in a way I haven’t been able to for a while.

But more than anything I love the people. I love the people who I would see in the cafeteria, the conversations had over chocolate milk and sub-par Italian. I love the laughter shared atop uncomfortable couches. I love laps and laps and laps around the lake during long talks about boys and faith and boys and classes and boys.

I love it, and therefore I celebrate it. And this weekend, even though my status as a student is in the past, I was reminded that the people aren’t. I was assured that the relationships are alive and pick up right where they were left off, and that the lessons I’m learning in South Carolina my lovely friends are still learning in the cornfields of Ohio.

So my heart is full. And I take it with me back to the land I was called to, and I anticipate what the Lord has up His sleeve in the next chapter.

And I shed a few tears on the plane, smiling at pictures taken and memories made while I was there.

 

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: 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?

30 Days of Celebration: Change

30 Days of Celebration: Change

I’ve had a lot of change in my life these past few months.

New town, new house, new job, new friends, new church. From Ohio to South Carolina, dorm room to host home, student to employee. My roles have changed, my social circles, the rhythm of my days.

You know those magic tricks where people grab the table cloth from under a table set with dishes and cups, and they pull the cloth out from underneath it all in one fell swoop? That’s what my life has felt like these past few months, and although I would have liked to hope that I would be that one table that successfully kept all the plates and bowls upright, I feel way more like the one where the dishes go flying everywhere.

Turns out, I’m simply an amateur in transitioning through a major life change. I try to pull the rug out without any damage, but it quickly becomes evident that it’s impossible. Change is just that way. You and I can’t expect to change everything about our surroundings and what we do and who we know and not expect to feel a bit of a loss of ourselves in the process.

It’s a painful detachment.  For the first couple of months here, I felt a loss of identity and I began grasping desperately at everything that used to remind me who I was. But it was all gone. My role at college, the people I knew, the roads I walked. I didn’t realize at the time how much I built myself around it all, but I had. And when it was ripped from me, I felt like I was ripped from me, too.

It’s an odd feeling, like you’re a stranger to yourself. But it’s an opportunity to get reacquainted, not with the version of yourself that desperately needs reassurance and familiarity, but with your very essence. I have had to ask myself: who am I really? When you strip it all away, what is left?

 

I celebrate today because of what I’ve found.

I’m a child of God. A weak, unworthy, self-righteous, entitled child of God. One who does not deserve that title in the slightest, yet holds it.

I have found that I don’t have to depend on what I do as long as I know who I am. I celebrate because this change has been a refining fire in me, burning out what can’t last anyways. Teaching me what’s of eternal value. Showing me how to meet myself where I am today, to be a friend to myself, and not expect more than what I can offer at the moment.

I celebrate because God has met me here. Sometimes it’s hard to see in the moment, but at the end of the day I am in awe of a perfectly timed conversation, a peaceful heart, a new ability to be still. I am living a season I know will be dazzling in the rearview mirror, even if the present can feel pretty cloudy.

But that’s ok. I celebrate the clouds.

So here’s to change, the scalpel to the soul. Here’s to letting it do it’s work in me. Not fighting it. Just letting go.

30 Days of Celebration: From The Inside of a Cloud

30 Days of Celebration: From The Inside of a Cloud

I went hiking with my sister-in-law yesterday, up into the mountainsides of North Carolina.

We set out just after noon and began to drive, expecting a clear day with good views. But as we got higher and higher, suddenly a deep fog began to cover the road. And that fog quickly turned into complete cloud cover, to the point that we could hardly see the road in front of us. We were totally submerged in a cloud.

One of her favorite overlooks was just up the road, so we decided to stop, to take some time and let the cloud move past. We got out of the car and walked to the overlook, and it was something I have never experienced before. At the railing, where you should have seen a view, you could see absolutely nothing. It was just cloud. A wall of clouds. It was surreal, really.

Hardly anyone was there, because the views were hidden, so it was like a special little haven, a moment in time that seemed to be reserved just for us. And it was beautiful.

I think what I loved most about it is that since the view was hidden, suddenly you found yourself noticing things you never would have noticed normally. The tree we were standing under, the dew on the leaves, the color of the rocks. Suddenly the things near me were in stark color, because I wasn’t distracted by the “better” view. The cloud was actually serving to give me better vision, not worse.

And it hit me, because I often feel like my mind is in a cloud. I can’t see what’s next, I can’t see the whole picture, and it’s all just a little too foggy for comfort. But God reminded me yesterday: clouds are a good thing.

Sure, you don’t see what you came to see, maybe. But you see new things, things you never knew needed noticing. Sometimes I think I get so swept up in the big picture, the “lookout”, the views, and I miss what is right in front of me.

I think sometimes God is merciful to put a cloud around us, because He knows we can’t handle the views quite yet. He doesn’t want us to worry, and so He plants a beautiful cloud right where it’s supposed to be so that we simply live in the moment.

And you know what? That cloud was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. It was special, and different, and it created a moment just for us. And so today I celebrate the cloud over my life, the one that makes me feel like I’m blind to what’s next. I choose today to celebrate it, to thank God that I don’t have to know what’s next, that the “clouded over” version of me is a beautiful one.

And I choose to see what I never would have seen normally, if I was so preoccupied with the view.