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.

30 Days of Celebration: A Single Red Leaf

30 Days of Celebration: A Single Red Leaf

Life is lived in the little, so today I celebrate Fall.

It’s November, and my first one in South Carolina. And let me tell, you it’s BEAUTIFUL.

I was driving yesterday, and talking with my friends about that incredible moment of driving down a street full of fallen leaves. And when you drive through the leaves, they spray up everywhere, you know? And the golden light shines through the flaming trees, with leaves of every color.

I think it is ridiculously awesome that leaves change color in the fall. I mean, how often do we really stop to think about that? One of my favorite quotes about the goodness of God is from Shauna Niequist in her book “Cold Tangerines”. She says:

Right now, around our house, all the leaves are falling, and there’s no reason that they have to turn electric bright red before they fall, but they do, and I want to live like that. I want to say, “What can I do today that brings more beauty, more energy, more hope?”  Because it seems like that’s what God is saying to us, over and over. “What can I do today to remind you again how good this life is?”

I think we try way too hard to see the goodness of God, when it’s really just staring us in the face. Our morning coffee, crafted from the beautiful Creation God made. The smiles of our friends, made in the image of God, beautiful. None of it deserved, all of it given. There is absolutely nothing any of us did to deserve this world we live in, and it is an act of humility to thank God for it.

Because bright red leaves can be so easily overlooked, if we think we deserve them. We will just demand more. But when we realize that every ounce of our lives are given to us, suddenly a single red leaf becomes Christmas morning. Why does it turn red?? How does that happen?? Why does that happen??

Beauty. Just beauty. And then those leaves fall, in a moment that could be seen as death, and yet God brings more beauty as the car in front of you drives into them and they spray up like a fountain, creating life out of death, showering you with wonder.

Because that’s what God does, creates life out of death. For a single red leaf, and for me.

Happy fall, everyone.

30 Days of Celebration: When It’s Too Much

30 Days of Celebration: When It’s Too Much

I am well aware that I have been spending my days on an unlikely adventure.

I haven’t been updating my blog much lately because it has been so crazy, but I think it’s time to CELEBRATE the story I’m in.

I graduated college in May, and you can see the latest post for my feelings on that. It was hard. Unlike some people, I didn’t really know where I was going or what I was doing. I had interviewed one place, and so my eggs were kind of all sitting in that one basket. I was heartbroken from leaving all that I knew and loved. I like to think of myself as this adventurer, but in reality I’m still just a kid who gets scared and wants to crawl into her parents’ bed when things are too hard.

So, of course, God decided to take me on a whirlwind.

I didn’t get that one gig I had hoped for. Square one. I thought of a few options here and there, walked through my summer unsure. I have never been one to crave career, per se. Remember, I like to think of myself as an adventurer?

So I decided to actually pray about it. And do this weird thing called walking by faith. (To be clear, I stink at it. Really bad. But God is faithful anyways.)

Just when I felt at the end of myself, I got a text from my brother who lives in South Carolina. He invited me to come and stay with him for a week or two and try to find work down there. And when I say I felt at the end of myself, I’m not kidding. It wasn’t very triumphant. I cried and called him and said “I’m in”. And that was that.

I visited South Carolina just 2 months ago, aaaand… nothing. No jobs. I had applied a lot of places, and nothing came through. At least, nothing that would pay the bills. And so I waited, and waited,

and waited.

And two days before my trip was over, I decided to try one last time at the places I had looked into. I was mainly applying at churches, so I drove around with my resume as a last attempt. And at the last minute I decided to go ahead and visit a church someone had mentioned the week before, one I had never heard of and never would have looked into.

I figured, worth a shot? I was desperate, remember.

I walked in, they swiftly told me they weren’t hiring, but then just as I was about to walk out, they stopped me and told me that they do have an internship of sorts that might interest me. They said it was called a Fellowship, which is basically fancy speak for a church taking recent college graduates under their wing and teaching them how to be Christians in the workplace.

I had never heard of it. I decided to take the contact information for the director, just in case.

But let me remind you, this was mid-August. Surely a program like that was starting real soon, and the chances of me getting in would be slim to none.

But desperate, remember?

So the next day I decided to just contact the woman who ran it. Why not, right? I was still staring down no job, no housing situation, and a swift plane flight back to my parent’s place. I sent an email out – “Hi I’m Maddie! Let me be in your program??”

And 10 minutes later, got one back.

“Hi Maddie! You are actually way too late to apply for this program. It starts next week.”

Cool.

But… we actually had someone drop out just days ago. We have a spot open. Give me a call?”

And so I did. And I applied, interviewed, got accepted, and moved within a week.

 

I write this, 2 months later, still baffled that this is my story at all. And do you know what’s craziest about the whole thing? I am tempted, every single day, to not celebrate the story I’m living. Because let me tell you, packing up and moving and changing everything about your life in a week is not easy. It’s just not. The Lord lead me here, surely. I can’t begin to tell you how any of this is possible without the hand of a loving God. There’s just no way.

But just because God leads us somewhere, doesn’t mean it’s easy. In fact, it will most definitely be hard. But I celebrate today because hard doesn’t mean bad. Hard is something worth celebrating, because it grows us. It teaches us a lot.

I could go into so much detail about what I’ve learned in these 2 months already, but that will have to be for another post. For now, just know that God really is faithful. The things you think will tear you apart, won’t. The times that death will surely win, it won’t. Maybe physically, yes, for none of us can stop that. But spiritually, death has no say. The Bible talks about being upheld by the hand of God, by walking through fire and not being burned, by not being overwhelmed by the rivers.

And I’m here to tell you, it’s true. For every ounce of earthly disappointment and trial, spiritual growth is ten-fold.

And today, I celebrate that. I celebrate the headache I’ve had for 2 months because I can’t keep up with all the change. I celebrate the tears of leaving what I love. I celebrate the mornings I can hardly get out of bed because it’s just too much for me.

Because, yeah, it is too much for me. And yet I’m not crushed. It’s the hand of God.

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.

2 Corinthians 4:8-9