Pep talk for the finishers


To cap off all these posts I’ve been making about how I’m really gonna trust God this time and really not worry, my pastor began a three-week series on spiritual rest on Sunday, preaching the first one on good ol’ Psalm 23.

Talk about holy timing.

In the spirit of trust and not worrying and keeping positive, I think it’s high time for another pep talk. This one goes out to all the finishers.

Hi.

Hey, no, over here. Look up from your work. I know. It’s hard to give anything else your attention when you’re swimming in to-dos and should-dos, but this is important.

This, too, shall pass.

In a matter of time, the dark clouds that have been pouring down hecticness and chaos of the mind will clear. For now, it’s like those arcade games where you finish one level and breathe a sigh of relief only to be in the next level, where the stakes are higher, the speed is less manageable, and your heart rate skyrockets because you can’t lose.

We’re going to make it through this. You know that, right? Every minute you spend doing the work that has to get done, you’re that much closer to the finish line. Kimmy Schmidt says you can do anything for ten seconds, then you just start counting again.

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10

And 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8…

You’re stronger than you think, and what you’re doing matters. It’s going to help you learn something or give you a skill you’ll need in two years or get you the grade you wanted (or maybe a step below, but hey, grades aren’t everything, and you’re doing your best).

Feel like you can’t do it? That’s normal. Then what can you do? Can you smile at someone? It’ll make you feel better. And maybe a little more capable. You may have just started a smile revolution, because then that person might just smile at someone else, and then someone else, and before you know it, you’ve changed the world.

Way to go, you.

Even if you’re not a girl, doesn’t this help?

Or this?

We’re on our way to being finishers, and won’t that be great! Maybe we’ll hang up crepe paper and run through it to commemorate the day.

You, my friend, are a powerhouse of intellect and motivation. Go forth and do work.

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Peace and slack


Whew. What a week. I went to St. Louis and helped pull off an event celebrating ethical fashion and talking about revolution in the garment industry. I came home and headed straight to night class with a plastic cup of macaroni and cheese my roommate had made in anticipation of my arrival.

And that set the tone for the rest of the week: flying, running, eating on the go.

I’m blogging right now because I think I’m caught up. I think I’m at the point where it’s comfortable to take an evening to make cupcakes with my friend and breathe.

Today I realized I had accidentally triple-booked my Tuesday afternoon. Scheduled an interview, a meeting with a professor, and a shift at work for the same time. Panic ensued with very short breaths and wide eyes and racing mind.

Are you sick of this conversation yet? I know I am. I’m so sick of responding to, “How’s it going?” with “Busy,” especially since that’s not really even a grammatically correct answer.

Where is my, Be still and know that I am God right now? Where is my cast all your anxiety on Him because he cares for you? Where is my easy yoke and light burden?

Stillness and putting anxiety to rest has not been the name of the game recently. I’ve been playing a frenzied version of Chutes and Ladders where I forget to even ask for peace, thinking it way too far out of my grasp. College students aren’t allowed to be peaceful during finals time. In fact, if you’re not stressed, you are more an object of scorn. Oh, you must not have anything to do. You must be a slacker.

Shudder.

The dreaded word.

Do I wear my stress as a badge of pride? Would it be shameful to be at peace instead, experiencing one of the most beautiful parts of the Gospel – that I am saved and loved and my value isn’t dependent on my performance? That I’m free to do things well and to take my life one step at a time while completely depending on my capable Savior?

I hope I wouldn’t be ashamed to do that.

I hope I am confident enough that God’s promise of offering peace doesn’t mean that my responsibilities go away or that I drop every ball I’m juggling to take a nap. It means that right there, right in the middle of the chaos, I can walk with peace. I can be a calm juggler, one who trusts that God will see me through.

Be still.Light load.Cast anxiety away.

I’m going to mentally go to this field when anxiety strikes. I’m going to picture walking with Jesus and tell him I’m stressed and hear Him tell me He’s capable. You can join me if you need a mental field.

Bus driver trust.


Today I’m taking the megabus to St. Louis. It’s an experience all about efficiency, so I have two inches in front of my knees. It seems there aren’t too many people keen on going to St. Louis or Memphis today, though, so the bus isn’t full, and I have a row to myself.

Travel always brings on at least a little anxiety for me. It’s just normal, the questions of will my alarm go off tomorrow morning? And will the construction on the brown line keep me from getting where I need to be? And will I find the bus stop since it’s moved for construction? All these difficulties surmounted, I’m on the bus and can relax.

The megabus people, though not excessively friendly on the whole, are so impressive. No need for pleasantries, and these are the rules. No, you can’t check two bags without another ticket. Yes, we are boarding through the back of the bus. Answer the same question three times in a row, as three people come up successively to ask the same thing.

I’ve got my home for the next 6 hours. It’s a seat in the middle at the top with an outlet.

Surrender and testimony.


Last Monday, I had breakfast-dinner with some friends of mine in my same stage of life, the do-I-have-my-life-together-and-can-I-pay-my-bills-when-I-graduate stage of life. I came in with a bowl of strawberries to eat with the pancakes, and when they asked me how I was, I said I was trying to trust God in the face of uncertainty.

They looked at each other and sighed. Them, too. Thanks for saying that.

Then we ate pancakes together and talked about the way life is right now.

Why is trusting God so hard? The words are easy to say (most days), “I trust God.” But in practice that should look like not worrying and obsessing and telling people that you have no idea how things are going to work out.

Maybe I have a hard time surrendering my problems because I want to feel they’re legitimate. I don’t want to surrender my worry because I want someone to tell me, That’s normal. It’s okay to feel that way. 

I do want that. I want someone to empathize with my struggle, to say I’m not weak for being overwhelmed.

But when the God I serve is the one who parts seas and raises the dead to life and has provided for my every need at the time when I needed it (not just when I thought I needed it), my worry isn’t valid. My situation is a concern, but obsession and worry is a waste of my energy and my testimony.

If I walk around telling the people who ask me how I’m doing that I’m waiting for God to show me how to work out my situation, that’s healthier for me and gives them an opportunity to watch how God works out my situation. (Also, apparently sometimes when you’re stressed, your sphincter (like the entrance to your stomach) can get a little small and make you feel like you’re going to throw up… Liesel’s anatomical addition to the conversation)

Now, to practice this. If you see me, I’ll tell you I’m waiting for God to work it out, and I’ll take a deep breath while I say it. And you can tell me what you’re waiting for God to work out, and we’ll take deep breaths together and remember that it’s worth it.

Weepy Week


I’ve cried in the library already twice this week, and when I saw the news that Taylor Swift’s mom has cancer, I teared up again. Where am I? Yes, the library.

Maybe it’s stress, maybe lack of deep sleep. Maybe I’m more emotional because I’ve been reading more – you know it’s an exercise in empathy, right? Either way, I’m prone to tears right now. Give me some especially good news, and the pipes may burst. Crush my spirit, and I’ll reach for a tissue. It’s just my reality right now.

It seems like a healthy way to go through life, to let the tears come when they may. I have successfully had a good cry at a study carrel twice without disturbing my fellow library-goers. It’s a skill, I’m telling you. Then you just dab at your face so your eyeliner doesn’t create scary tear lines down your cheeks, and you’re good.

I could teach seminars on this.

Some of the tears this week have been about plans that I had that can’t come to fruition now. It was disappointing. But I’m looking ahead because God is in my there, which is obviously not where I was hoping it’d be but it’s better.

I was thinking during one of my classes today, while I was having a hard time paying attention, about what my life will be like when I make it. I had a fleeting image of Fame, where there are pink neon lights. But most of our successes don’t happen like that, do they?

I switched gears and instead imagined sitting at a pretty desk (that I somehow manage to keep organized) in a dimly-lit room that has a well-placed window for thinking-staring. I pictured myself writing a true sentence, something that communicates a deeper truth than I even thought I knew. I think that’s making it for me.

It’ll be quiet, and maybe no one will even read the sentence at the moment, but that’s what it will look like.

And I’ll probably cry.

Here and there.


Jesus is not in the business of letting me plan ahead right now. I’m stuck in the here and now, waiting on people to get back to me so I can know what I’ll be doing in a month and so I can plan.

He’s not about that.

I’m taking this as a sign that I need to be present in the here and now a bit more than I would be if I knew what would be going on in my life in a month.

Here.

Like right and left, here is relative to where you are. I’m here, you’re there. And you could say the same thing to me. “I’m here; you’re there.” It’d still be true. Because “here” has to do with time and place.

Someone has been making that word bold in the typeface of my day today. In church today we sang, “The King is here/the King is here/Hallelujah/God, you’re here” then moved on to talk about how we’ll never be the same because God is… what? Here.

So many layers to this. 1. Jesus came back from the dead, the main thing we’re celebrating today. That’s one here. He’s in the realm of the living.

2. He did that whole defeating death thing so we wouldn’t have to say, “Jesus is there, but I’m here.” We share a here.

3. God comes into the midst of our lives to change us. He doesn’t make us change our here but instead meets us right smack dab where we are. And he either changes us or our situations.

4. And that never changes. When Jesus comes into your here he’s there to stay, whether I’m surrendering to the changes he’s initiating or not. He’s in my here for good.

That’s making the whole, I’m stuck here and can’t even think about there because I don’t know where it is thing much more palatable. Jesus knows my future, and he’s present in that, too (because being in one place in time is for chumps), but he’s in my here, shaping it for the there and making me who I need to be in the here and there. 

Small words can pack a punch in your day.

Birth and death.


In the weeks leading up to Christmas, I often read and re-read the different Gospel accounts of the birth of Jesus and the events surrounding it, partly because it’s a powerful story and partly because its my best defense against commercialization.

I don’t usually do that around Easter. I probably will read the crucifixion story once a year, again if a sermon makes me.

I have a theory about this. For one thing, I’m always more excited about a birth than a death. Granted, Jesus’ death signals the beginning of life abundant for all of humanity, so technically this is a birth, too.

No, my theory has more to do with what each story requires of me. The story of the birth of Christ asks me to take pause and remember that I serve a God who comes to meet humanity right where they are, who humbles Himself to the point of being born in a barn. It asks for my gratitude, for me to think ahead to the hope I have in Christ, and for me to celebrate.

Easter’s a celebration, too. But it asks more of me. Perhaps this is why I don’t read and re-read the story for all of Lent. Easter asks me to die to sin – to my very nature  – because God became man and was nailed to a cross after being beaten and abused. And he did it for me.

Easter asks me to take stock of the sin in my life and mourn for it. It asks me to nail it to the cross and bear it no more (sound easy? I know. It does… but it’s not). It asks me to remember that I serve a living God, one who walks with me and is constantly rearranging my life so it looks more like one He would live.

It’s not quite as cozy. Certainly, if I use the Christmas story and jump ahead to Easter – because it’s all part of the same master narrative, really – I’ll have the same experience both times. But it’s pretty segregated in our world.

I think there’s a reason Easter is commercialized in a way that has nothing at all to do with what it’s about. At least Santa has to do with kindness and giving and somewhat the spirit of God coming to earth (but even then not much). But the Easter bunny? Seems like a blatant coverup to mask the power of the greatest story of all time. People don’t sell crucifixion scenes in most stores, but you’ll see the chicks and bunnies and candy.

Easter should be a wake-up call for me – to remember who I live for, why it’s worth it, and that death has no hold on me anymore because of Jesus.

That being said, I will definitely eat the pastel peanut butter M&Ms while remembering those things.

Affirmation and presumption.


I’m writing a memoir. I know, it sounds presumptuous that I have anything to remember in my 21 years of life. Really, it’s presumptuous to write a memoir at any age because it assumes that someone will find your story valuable.or interesting. Or both.
I suppose that reasoning also makes blogging presumptuous.
I’ll have to claim it.
I met with my creative writing advisor tonight at Starbucks. We get 15 minutes with her every month. You’d be surprised what you can do in 15 minutes.
I came to the meeting with trepidation about finishing, wondering if the story about family and loss I have to tell is even interesting. When you spend enough time with your own work, it starts to feel old and dull, like you’re pouring out mothballs instead of fresh new work.
She likes it. She had ideas and constructive feedback and thought I was doing well.
Sure, I don’t only write for people to like it and tell me they do, but gosh was that affirming. I left the meeting and looked through her comments as I walked to the train.
You see what I’m reading? I wanted to tell the people I walked by. This is my manuscript. My heart swelled a bit, thinking that maybe I was holding paper with some value. Better not let the wind blow it away.