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: 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: 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: Time is a Thief?

30 Days of Celebration: Time is a Thief?

I wasn’t ready to graduate college.

I know that some of my classmates that day were practically tearing the doors down to get out of there. They couldn’t wait to graduate. They highly anticipated whatever was next, so excited to be done with dorm bathrooms and cafeteria food.

And I’m happy for them, I really am. But I wasn’t ready to leave.

My friends describe me as a wholehearted person. Whatever I do, I do with all of me. The “one foot in, one out” concept is pretty foreign, because if I’m doing something I’m going to have both feet in, getting mud on my hands, scraping moments out of minutes. I’m going to invest in the people there and the places there. I’m going to scrapbook my adventures. I’m going to fall in love. It’s what I do, it’s the way I was made.

So leaving college, after 4 wonderful years of tears, laughter, adventures, late nights, relationships… it felt to me like being left at the alter. “Really, college? After all this time we spent together? Nothing?”

Left, high and dry. May 5th came and went, and there was nothing I could do about it. I celebrated a little, and I cried a lot, because college was never about the degree for me. I wasn’t there to get it over with. I was there to be there, and I wasn’t ready to stop being there.

But Time had its own say.

Graduation day came whether I wanted it to or not. It came and went. And it’s taken me some time to realize how much I began to resent Time because of it. It’s like the final slap in my lack of control. I can’t stop Time.

I can’t slow it down, can’t control it. It will pass, and with it is change, whether good or bad.

I’m beginning to realize that it is exactly the things we can’t change that we need to celebrate the most, because they were not made in our design. The older I get the more I realize that I didn’t make this world, and I don’t rule it. But I was made to live in it, and loving the Creator means loving the Creation.

And today that means loving Time.

 

Time is a gift. In the beginning, God made 7 days to be in a week. He gave us rhythm, and rest. He designed our bodies to thrive within the constraints of Time.

Time brings long, wonderful nights of sleep.

Time brings the change of seasons, both in nature and in my life. It makes the leaves change and the snow to come and the spring to reign.

Time has a front row seat as people meet and fall in love, as broken pasts are healed, and I see God viewing time as an adventure. It’s like the turning of a book page in a really great novel. Why would you stay on the same page forever? To turn the page is to usher in what’s next, the adventure waiting for the character.

And why would God not turn that page in my life? I want Time to stop because I fear change, but God doesn’t. My favorite verse in the Bible lately is Psalm 139:16 –

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

What a shame it would be to not see those pages lived out! Thank you, Time!

 

Today I choose to live my life like I really am seen and known by a God who loves me. I choose to believe that He really does have good plans for me, that He really does see me. And I know it to be true, because He made me. He who made my life will see it through.

And Time will pass, but that’s ok. It’s good, because with it brings growth and love and change, all things hard but beautiful.