Becoming Wild and Free

“If Christ is in you, the wild nature of God is ready for you to access and practice and live out…This means, simply put, that you don’t live subject to any constraints or categories. You can defy expectation and throw off all assumptions because that is the nature of God in you.” Jess Connolly//Wild and Free

I am not much of a risk taker. I like to play it safe, to weigh all my options, and to plan out my days down to the hour. My planner has become one of my favorite personal objects and there’s a small part of me that is overly satisfied every time I get to write something in the little boxes.

But lately I’ve started to question and wonder why being organized and safe delights me as much as it does. With as much joy I put in this planned life, there is also extreme dissatisfaction when plans go awry. I’m not sure I’m ok with that kind of life.

Jess Connolly and Hayley Morgan released a book today- Wild and Free– that, among many other things, confronts this struggle and more importantly, the joy found in living the kind of life Christ calls us to. I had the privilege of being on their launch team and I’ve spent the past month reading and processing and praying through the idea of being completely free in Christ. The more I soak in this idea, the more I realize that so much of my life is bound by my perceived expectations of those around me and the more I am growing in my desire to step outside the lines I put around myself and fully participate in a wild and free life with Christ.

Up until recently, wild and free were simply not words in my vocabulary. In college, I found myself bound by the expectations of my Christian community: wear the Chacos, go to Chapel, work at camp, and create the pretty Instagrams by the brick wall. Find the boy, and if not, then be content in singleness because hey, Paul was single and he was pretty great. Create the façade of wild and free, but stay confined by the trends and expectations even though it’s impossible to perfectly create the picture as aesthetically pleasing as that person over there.

For my first three years of college, I crumbled under this pressure when my experience looked differently than I thought it would, finding myself in zero on-campus leadership positions, in an unhealthy, stagnant relationship, and severely insecure in my major all because I couldn’t match the perceived expectations I thought others were holding me to. My world felt small and it was hard to experience God working in the midst of all of this disappointment and failure.

Throughout these past two years of finishing college and my first year post-grad, I’ve started to loosen the ropes tying me to the expectations of my communities by believing and living in the reality that the Lord offers something better. Through this process, I have experienced more freedom than I thought possible and have made some wild choices that have led to some of the most life-giving experiences and relationships I couldn’t have imagined on my own. I’m just beginning this wild and free journey, just getting a taste of the goodness the Lord offers by slowly scrapping my life of meticulous plans and living fully for his glory- wild and free in this beautiful, unpredictable, get-to life with Christ.

Friend, if you find yourself living a small life constrained by the expectations of the culture around you and are craving something more, I urge you to pick up a copy of Jess and Hayley’s book Wild and Free (you can order it here). This book is rooted in Scripture and breathes Gospel. It consistently points to God’s glory and proclaims truth with every word. It has pushed me to places of reflection and wild dreams, of prayer and gratitude and grace. This book is an invitation to the wild and free life, a beautiful place that is fully ours without having to meet any standard or expectation. So, friend, I invite you through Hayley and Jess’ words to come join in this life, to join the women discovering that we don’t have to live such constrained, small lives, that we can truly live freely in Christ.

Feature Picture: Hayley Morgan and Jess Connolly

Good Friday and Staring into Fog

This time last year, I trekked up a steep trail with my missions team on a mountain in Bolivia.  My calves burning and my lungs out of breath, the promise of a beautiful view propelled me forward. But as we reached the top, we stared into a foggy abyss, blocking the waterfalls and rivers and colors we expected. Disappointment filled me as I sank into the side of the mountain, my arms wrapped around my knees, exhausted and angry.

The year prior to this moment carried the most pain I had experienced up to that point. It started with a breakup and from there progressed into a process of recognizing all the things I had been hiding and manufacturing and controlling in order to look like I had it all together. I cried a lot. I experienced more anger and resentment than I thought possible. I allowed myself to experience God’s brutal truth, giving Him free reign to mold and shape and refine me. It hurt.

I experienced a lot of life that year. In the midst of being refined and learning what I wanted, I faced great fear. I was graduating soon and had no clue where I was going to be even though I knew where I wanted to go. I remember reading Donald Miller’s Scary Close for the first time, resonating with the concepts of finding authentic community and being real with the people around me in order to experience some of the best of life. I knew that was what I wanted wherever I ended up.

But what I remember more vividly was laying on the bottom bunk of my bed staring at the mattress above me with the book open upside down on my stomach while fear consumed me because I didn’t believe the Lord would provide that community or those people for me to be real with once I left my safe college bubble.

Fear stuck with me that year, always creeping around in the back of my mind, clinging itself to any hope or thought about what I desired. It was especially sticking to every hope I could imagine as I sank into the steep hill and wet grass in Bolivia, staring into the fog.

The day I sat on that mountain was Good Friday. How perfectly metaphorical was it that, on the most hopeless day in history, I stared into fog from a mountain slope, unable to experience the wonders ahead because they were blocked by darkness.

As I fumed in my anger about not being able to see the beauty below me or the future in front of me, I wondered if this was how the disciples felt once they learned Jesus had died. I wondered if they felt they had climbed and worked and endured what they thought would reap eternal benefit only to be left alone in their despair at the top. I wondered if they felt as if their future was full of whisp-y fog because the Man who had promised them life was now dead.

Last year, sitting on that mountain, I hated the fog. I wanted it to be lifted, to see the grand wonders underneath and experience every drop of the beauty right then, as I imagine the disciples desired for their fog to be lifted on this day thousands of years ago; to be assured that the life Jesus promised, the life they believed in, could carry eternal weight.
But as I kept staring into that fog, I remembered Easter. I remembered that Lord promises us life and that we can cling to that promise because Jesus defeated death permanently. I remembered that the disciples, and all of humaity who chooses to believe, had been freed from their hopelessness because Jesus did what he promised by not allowing the Cross to be the end but rather the beginning of something eternally life-giving and freeing.
Good Friday reminds me of the death that our expectations and perceived futures and need to control will inevitably face. Sometimes we need the fog to push us to Jesus, to remember how desperately we need Him. The best part of Good Friday is that Easter always comes soon after and the promise of the Resurrection allows us to cling onto the hope that the Lord has something better, that He gives abundant life.

When New Year’s Resolutions Fail the First Week

It snowed last night. The weather app said it wasn’t supposed to snow today, but it did. I woke up to the sound of the snowplow and people scraping the ice off their car windows, but it was Instagram who first told me how much snow there was because I checked it before I got up out of my bed and and looked out the window.

As I was scrolling through my feed, I remembered that I’ve already failed at many of my newly made New Year’s resolutions, including the one not to look at social media first thing in the morning before I had my time with Jesus. I sat up, disappointed, and started another day angry at myself.

This past week, filled with the hope of new beginnings, didn’t go the way I planned in regards of following my resolutions. As I was preparing for the week last Sunday afternoon, I wrote goals and to-do lists on my shiny new notepad. I couldn’t wait to get back in the classroom and be with my students, to start my new running schedule to prepare for the half-marathon I signed up for, get back into eating healthy, and spend consistent mornings in the Word.

But during the teacher work day the next morning, I began freaking out because I didn’t know everything about Greek mythology and I started teaching The Odyssey the next day. How could I effectively teach this story if I didn’t know every single detail about the background information and Ancient Greek culture?! Cue panic attack.

And then on Wednesday I had to go home early from work because I started to feel terrible, which was probably worsened by my panicking about what would happen if this led to being super sick, because the rest of the week was packed and I couldn’t trust a sub to make sure my students got all the information they needed to understand this new text. The rest of the day at home, I proceeded to chastise myself because I didn’t feel that bad and have gotten through much busier days and weeks feeling much worse—I could have dealt with it and been fine.

The rest of the week I was continually irritated at myself for failing. I had to skip the rest of my planned runs because I still didn’t feel 100%, spiraling angry thoughts towards my body. I ended the week spending too much time poking and prodding and hiding my body because it didn’t look or feel the way I wanted it to.

I once again fell into the rhythm of believing that my worth and credibility as a human were based in how efficiently I crossed things off my to-do list, how skinny I felt in the morning indicating that I ate well and worked out the previous day, and how consistently I stuck to my goals.

I already failed at accomplishing these things and it hasn’t even been two weeks into the new year.

Have you been here, friends? Have you fallen in to the all-too familiar rhythm of criticizing yourself when you don’t meet your own standards? Of falling back into this destructive thought pattern after you’ve promised yourself that things were going to change tomorrow but failed?

Because that’s where I’m at on this snowy Sunday afternoon. I woke up most mornings this week pounding myself into the ground because I already failed the first week at being consistent in the healthy things I know I’m capable of—of eating well and working out and being organized at school and not checking social media before having Jesus time in the morning.

But instead of staying angry, I’m choosing to rest in the truth that my worth is beyond any kept New Year’s resolutions. I’m choosing to remember that I am loved deeply by the Lord and that my actions don’t earn my salvation, His grace is enough for that. I’m choosing to reflect on the all the things the Lord provided this week in the midst of my failure.

Because while teaching a story I wasn’t yet comfortable with, I fell back into the rhythm of being in the classroom and was reminded of how passionate I am about teaching universal themes expressed through beautiful words to almost-adults and how powerful it is to learn alongside my students.

And while I wasn’t feeling my best, I experienced the Lord’s provision and love through my co-workers covering my classes, my boyfriend bringing me soup from my favorite place, and my mom answering my seven phone calls that day asking what medicine I should take.

And although I spent most of the week angry at my body, I’m remembering all the moments it supported me in doing the things the Lord needed me to do, like carrying me through a day on my feet with a textbook in my arms reading words that hopefully teach my students something important.

I love New Year’s resolutions, and even after this week of failing at mine, I’m not throwing them away yet because I think they’re important guidelines to living a healthy life. But here’s the thing to remember—they’re guidelines. Failing at them isn’t the end of the world or the crumbling of our worth. Through grace and love, the Lord gives us the freedom to start over in every next moment.

If you failed this week and have been hard on yourself, let this moment be your next moment. Regroup, find your place in the Lord’s grace, and move forward. Recognize the beautiful, redeeming moments that happened in the midst of failure and self criticism, realizing how fully the Lord provides for you and how deeply He loves you.

Finding Hope in the Ordinary

As I walked through Advent this year, I was reminded that we serve a God who creates incredible meaning from ordinary moments. Jesus was born to teenage parents in a stable and placed in a manger—simple, quiet, and, at the moment, unknown to most outside the stable. An uncharacteristic coming for a long-awaited King.

Through his humble beginnings and the many ordinary moments of his human life, Jesus proved he was willing and able to live this hard, lonely, dark life with us, giving us hope and providing light in every moment because he understands. He walked through it too, becoming the ultimate counselor for every difficult, hopeless, draining moment we experience on this earth.

Jesus brought hope. He brought light and joy and the freedom to enjoy relationships and passions and learning and creation despite the darkness that plagues this world. He provided an answer for the longing, hope that there is something better than what this world offers.

I don’t know what happened in your 2015, but I’m sure some hard stuff went down. I’m sure things changed that you didn’t expect to change and that you struggled and cried and felt hopeless and lonely at different moments. I know I did. But this year, more so than other years, I experienced the reality of Christmas, of light always being the end result of darkness. Of God providing incredibly beautiful moments and opportunities I couldn’t have anticipated. Of a Savior always coming when the darkness I found in myself was too much.

I love how Christmas is immediately proceeded by a New Year. After a season of reflection and longing and waiting and finally of the joy that Christmas day symbolizes, we get to start over. I’m thankful to serve a God that always allows us to start over every moment, every morning, every year.

In this New Year, I hope you allow the significance of Christmas to change your daily routines and conversations and relationships and responsibilities. I hope you recognize God in the small moments, that you see how he is infusing light and hope into the facets of your world you think are permanently dark.

I hope you find God with you in your responsibilities at work or school, in the dark mornings getting ready for the day, in the average conversations with the people around you. I hope you find Him in the books you read and in the people he brings into your life, in the walks you take outside or in the dinner you make at night.

Let’s allow 2016 to be the year we recognize grace and love and hope and truth in the everyday because we remember that God is with us.

I started this blog to do just that, but in the transition of graduation and moving and first year teaching and the hundred other new things the Lord plopped in my life, I’ve forgotten to spend time reflecting on finding the beautiful in the ordinary. So here’s to coming back to this space in 2016, reflecting and learning and finding meaning in the in-between moments.

It’s Ok to Slow Down

During the past few weeks I’ve started training for a 15k with my housemates. It’s been difficult to run together because of our clashing schedules, so for the past week I’ve done my runs alone. I love the rhythm of training and running alone creates time for me to pound out my frustrations through my feet and jam out to some pretty rockin’ tunes. It’s my time to think deeply or to not think at all, to take out the headphones during some legs of the route and just pray; to hand my insecurities and those situations and people in my life I deeply try to control to the Lord.

I’ve started to run the same route, modified for mileage, everyday: walk to the stop sign, run to the corner and past the KSAC, around the lake, up the hill by the Haak and around the loop to the house. Each of these places holds different memories for me and as I rhythmically run this route several times a week, I’m learning to redeem these places from the memories loaded with pain and loss and regret.

I’ve memorized the mile markers on this route; I know exactly which tree or street to look for. Every time I hit the one-mile marker I look down at the time and am shocked at how quickly I ran it compared to my usual pace. I congratulate myself, feeling accomplished. I look up, smiling, and keep trekking along, hoping I can keep up this quick pace because I’m feeling good.

I get about another half mile and I slowly start to drag. My pace significantly slows down and I notice the aches in my knees and the tight muscles in my legs begin to feel tighter. I blast my music louder through my headphones, trying to focus on the beat and the lyrics. I start praying desperate prayers of everything that comes to mind. Anything to keep me distracted from feeling uncomfortable. I’ve started to hit the wall I need to get past until I settle into my pace and enjoy the heart of the run, the really good stuff that continually motivates me to keep on running.

But once I slow my pace and take a moment to look around, I see the long country roads and endless cornfields. I notice the perfect fall sky with the clouds hanging low, glimpses of late afternoon blue and yellow shining through. I can feel the sun on my back and the needed bouts of coolness through the shady parts. I appreciate where I’m at and what my body can do, which seems to give the aches and pains a sweeter vibe.

I feel like we treat the immediate moments after big changes and break-ups and moving and changing jobs like that first mile, sprinting and avoiding the existing aches and pains from the transition, even if it is for the best. We feel alive and new, refreshed and ready to take on this new thing with all the new opportunities and possibilities.

It’s once we get to the slow part where we recognize the pain; we start to recognize what’s going on around us. We must first slow down though, allowing ourselves to feel the tension in our souls and minds and hearts because they simply were overwrought with excitement and adrenaline at the beginning.

As I reflect more on this past summer after my significant life change, I find it appropriate to describe it as a sprint. I started working my first job the day after my last final before adding two more jobs, an online class, and an extensive amount of reading in my tiny bits of free time. When I wasn’t working or reading, I was going out to dinner and coffee with friends I hadn’t seen all year. I ran, ran, ran and then I started student teaching, beginning a new sprint in a new place.

But now I’m 7 weeks in. The new-ness has settled down and the initial excitement is starting to wane. I’m getting tired, I’m starting to remember things I tried so hard to forget in the immediate moments after the change. My life now consists of lesson planning and grading and sleeping. I’m more apt to want to sit on the sofa with my housemates than go out and do something crazy. My life is slower, even amongst the busyness. But it’s in these moments that I’m overcoming that wall, I’m on the verge of finding that sweet spot of truly moving on.

I’m learning that it’s ok to slow down.

It’s ok to not constantly float between different groups of people or go out every weekend or have plans all the time. It’s ok to change my pace, to start to feel the aches and the pains, to desperately pray for everything going through my head and attempt to drown it out sometimes.

When I slow down, despite the very raw feelings of hurt, I am also able to savor and dwell in the really good moments because I’m not hurriedly trying to get to the next step. Slowing down allows me to look around for a minute and realize that the Lord has blessed me with really beautiful scenery. I look around and realize that I’ve found my people and my place in my housemates and home and students and schools. I’m doing work I love and learning constantly, especially in my moments at home, away from the world and on my own.

This is enough. I’ve been given right now to slow down, to cut out parts from the past so I can start to dwell in this sweet spot, to fully and richly love those around me and engage in relationship with people I deeply connect with in fewer spaces with fewer people than before. This is good.

So when you settle into your slower pace after the sprint, feel the moments of hurt, but also recognize the good moments too. Allow them to heal and shape you. Spend some time on your own, learning and refining and being ok with less. Enjoy the slower pace.

new.

“Today, look for the unfamiliar. Find where God needs you”

I remember sitting on a dark brown wooden bench, looking at the other members of my team circled in our main meeting area in Yetebon, Ethiopia. We had been there almost a week and so far nothing had gone as planned. But every moment remained beautiful and rich, especially once we learned to let go of the expectations and plans we had for our time at Project Mercy. I remember this day well. Our plans to go into the classroom to teach fell through again and our leader, Solomon, sat in the circle that evening and reminded us in his quiet, contemplative way to look for the unfamiliar ways we were to serve, love, and enter into relationship with those who crossed our path the next day. Never mind our thwarted plans, God had spaces for us to fill, we simply needed to seek them out to serve and love those God placed alongside of us.

These words have stayed with me during the past several months since returning from Ethiopia, often bubbling to the surface of my thoughts. These simple words ignited something within me, quietly challenging me to seek out new ways to serve, love, and enter into relationships wherever I find myself today.

And as I find myself with a fresh perspective in a familiar place, these words come to mind. I have transitioned into a new rhythm, adapting to yet another new, unfamiliar routine that comes with my final year at Taylor, student teaching, and living in a house with a group of dear, beautiful friends. When I have a moment to really dwell in the newness of where I am right now, following the moments of panic from the unknown, I find hope in the promises of a good Lord who loves us and cares for us, a God who is glorified while we live the lives He calls us to.

Right now I am choosing to really take in this transition, experiencing the moments of pain and fear that are thankfully accompanied by the moments of excitement and truth and the giddiness of a new adventure. While I think about this new space and rhythm, I am reminded of Isaiah 43:19:

“Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?”

I want to perceive this new thing; this new year and routine and opportunities. To recognize the beauty of new rhythms and new hopes, new dreams and aspirations and relationships and travels. I want to learn and grow and be aware of where I am at right now, seeking the unfamiliar ways to serve and love those around me.

In the coming months, this space we have been sharing for a short while is going to be changing a bit. See, I have this passion for simplicity and intentionality, especially as they relate to faith, daily living, and relationships. I find myself in a small brick house with four other women committed to living with intentionality to do the Lord’s good work this year. This house provides us the opportunity to learn how to live simply and practice and dwell in the richness of hospitality, creating a safe space for those who walk through our door. This, right here, is the space where I will be chronicling and reflecting on this process, sharing stories of our life together and how we are choosing to live well right now. I hope you visit this space this year, either online or in person, learning alongside of us and experiencing the life that dwells within the community we are called to live in together.

 

 

 

 

purify.

The word “pure” draws me to different places, especially growing up as a Christian in the modern American church. I most clearly remember this buzzword used in the context of abstinence and marriage, staying pure for the man or woman who was to walk into your life one day. Soon there became this pressure around “pure”, this strict standard to measure up to, this constant pressure of good enough, holy enough, perfect enough so that one person can love you, cherish you, and keep you company for the moments and days and years ahead.

What I’ve been learning the past few years, and especially today, as I contemplate the concept of true purity, is that it is so much bigger than what I was taught all those years. Purity became too big, too important to be stuffed primarily into the box of marriage and sex. There had to be something deeper, something more satisfying for my soul to grab on to because purity mainly for the sake of a temporary, possible marriage I’m not promised in the first place was not cutting it.

I love and believe in the reality and meaning of purity in the context of marriage and although I have not experienced it for myself, I truly hope to someday. But in the broader context of my life as a Christian right now, I need more than the connotation my mind jumps to every time I hear the word.

So, as I focus on purity, the real, honest, weighted purpose of purity, 1 John 3:3 allows me some new perspective:

 “And everyone who thus hopes in Him purifies himself as He is pure”

Purity matters because Jesus is pure. Our journey towards purity simply because we desire to be like Jesus is truly enough. It’s a process of refinement, of learning to chip away the hurt and pain and misconceptions we learn every day for the purpose of mirroring the person and characteristics of Jesus Christ in every moment.

I think this process of refinement towards purity can look surprisingly normal. It’s the small, internal decisions that allow us to consistently endure towards purity. The moments when we choose to forgo critical thoughts or comments towards another, of choosing forgiveness over anger, of choosing to be gracious and choosing to serve the person next to us at any present moment. In these moments we choose to put our hope in Christ, trusting that the intentional decisions He calls us to make truly lead us to the richest, most fulfilling life we could imagine; a pure life that reflects Jesus.

A vital aspect to the reality of purifying ourselves as Jesus is pure exists through the love and grace we receive from Him when we do think or say those critical comments, when we forget to serve the person next to us and when we choose anger over forgiveness. This abundant amount of love and grace and forgiveness allows us the freedom to repent and try again thousands of times over. This reality makes the process less rigid and more attainable, less about what I have to do and measure up to and more about who I already am and what has already been attained for me through Christ on the Cross.

Today I am choosing purity because I desire a life that reflects Jesus. My hope is in Him and His victory allows me the freedom to repent when I inevitably fail, to press on towards a purified life. I hope you find life and meaning in this reality, that your hope in Jesus leads to authentic purity.

enough.

I am enough.

It’s difficult to wake up every single morning and believe those words. In the midst of a culture where excess reigns, having enough is almost nonexistent. Being enough is almost nonexistent. There’s always more to strive for, more to have, more to want. Money, food, relationships. More, more, more.

Life slows down during the summer. It provides a different and slower rhythm. Even while juggling three jobs, I have significantly less to distract me now than during the school year. I am no longer living in a residence hall with thrity-seven other women and I don’t have the hefty tasks of schoolwork consistently available to turn to. There isn’t a hallway filled with people and conversations I can pace up and down or spontaneous 10PM runs to Taco Bell to constantly fill my time at home. It’s slower here, quieter here. And although I love my time and crazy rhythm at school, I know I need this break to slow down.

And even though I know I need this, slowing down can be harder than keeping up with a crazy pace. Slowing down means that I have to face what hurts and where I fall short. To dwell on what has changed in the past year and in that dwelling space is room for bitterness and resentment to grow. There’s space for the notion of not being enough to creep in and slowly fill the gaps until I can barely move.

I know I am not alone in this. I know that I am not the only one who struggles with being enough, especially during transition periods. All too often we cope by focusing on the next. The next job, the next season, the next relationship, the next school. While this might help us cope for a short period of time, there is danger in putting our hope and source of healing in the instability of what we’re not promised.

God hasn’t promised us a new relationship or job or school or even tomorrow. God promised us Himself. All of Him who loves all of us. We are enough because He is and we are. We aren’t entitled to what He has given us, they are only tools to live as humans on this earth and to glorify our God. He’s given us enough to sustain from sunrise to sunset.

I believe there is a significant correlation between the moment we start becoming truly grateful and start believing we’re enough. To be thankful is to understand we have been given enough. Bitterness and resentment lose their power when we stop giving it to them. We have the ability to make that choice, to offer thanksgiving during the moments we feel inadequate, unproductive, and worthless. We have the ability to recognize all the good around us. The good that comes in the forms of community and books and conversations and creation and the amazing truth that we are alive and that the Lord has chosen us to breathe on this earth today.

It’s unpopular to be slow. It’s difficult not to be distracted in a culture that prides itself on the ability to go, go, go and do, do, do. But there is life in the slow moments. In bringing our repressed shame and fear of not being enough to the light, we can then be grateful for what we have today. The slow moments allow us to remember that the Lord has always given us what we needed in the past and although that may not be what we need today, we can trust that He will give us what we need today because He cannot fail those He created and loves.

I am choosing to be thankful and believe that I am enough today. I am enough because Jesus is. God is simply all things good and powerful and majestic and just in the most complex, mysterious way. And in these complexities that we cannot understand, we find worth and love and grace and the firm truth that we are enough. Transitions are hard, but this one marks the beginning of my recognizing that I am enough in every season and transition and space I find myself in. I am enough regardless of yesterday or tomorrow. God gives us what we need. He gives us enough to sustain in every moment. I am grateful.

 

meaning.

“It’s called “life,” John. Activities available; just add meaning.”  From A Beautiful Mind

I’ve been spending the last week subbing at the high school I graduated from and I am currently working in an AP Psychology class. One of the benefits (or disadvantages) of subbing is watching the same 50 minutes of a movie 6 times in a row. Since it is a psychology class, it is appropriate that the students watch the incredible movie “A Beautiful Mind”. This movie follows the story of a brilliant man, John Nash, and his battle with Schizophrenia. Sitting through the first 100 minutes of this movie several times now has allowed me to pick up on small moments and lines that wouldn’t have been significant during a first viewing. One scene that I didn’t necessarily pay attention to the first few times struck me while repeatedly listening to the lines that became increasingly familiar throughout the day.

This scene occurs towards the middle of the movie after John has been diagnosed with Schizophrenia and is out of his first round at the mental hospital. He sits at the kitchen table playing with one of his baby son’s toys while his wife, Alicia, puts away the food and dishes from dinner. One of John’s main struggles is that he cannot continue his work in mathematics because of two main reasons: one being that it was all a conspiracy theory in his mind and another because the medicine he takes starts to dull his mind. John did not know how to spend his moments without incorporating what he was gifted at- solving equations. He has to learn how to find meaning in other ways because his ability to carry out his passion was unwillingly stripped from him in this moment. John asks Alicia what he should do with his time and she replied,It’s called “life,” John. Activities available; just add meaning.” He then proceeded to take out the trash.

Alicia’s words got me thinking, how do I make meaning out of activities that I may not be passionate about? How do we tangibly make the ordinary meaningful? I believe this can be done in an infinite amount of ways, it just takes some effort on our part. And as I began to ponder what ordinary moments I can derive meaning from, I realized they abounded, it was just whether or not I decided to recognize them. From the head nod of the student who finally understood a question on a work sheet to having a conversation with a new friend about our love for a traditional Ethiopian meal, I realized that these are the moments that matter. These are the kinds of moments that remind me that what I do and what I say affects other people, therefore they are meaningful. From donating clothes to taking out the trash to choosing where to buy our food, it is the culmination of these moments that we can choose to make matter if we choose to do it with intentionality. Life is a rhythm of activities, some we have the privilege of choosing and some that are bestowed upon us because we’re human and live in a flawed world. And it is what we choose to do with these activities that matters. We can choose to complain, scoff, and dismiss the little moments we may or may not want or we can choose to make meaning from them in whatever form that works.

I invite you to start making meaning from the daily activities, to embrace the natural rhythm and understand that moments deserve intentionality and purpose.

alive.

“Grace is not gentle or made-to-order. It often comes disguised as loss, or failure, or unwelcome change.” — Kathleen Norris

I stumbled upon this quote yesterday and I am so thankful I did because it allowed me to recognize that the moments of loss and change and pain and joy are direct results of God’s grace. See, I recently entered into a season of unexpected loss and singleness. I have the security of knowing this season is very much from the Lord and for this, I am thankful. The pain and grieving over what is lost remains, though, and there are moments that hurt so much. But, it is because of this grace that came in the form of loss and unwelcome change that I have been able to recognize and dwell in the freedom and joy the Lord has provided. The hurt and pain are often present, but the moments of peace and excitement and freedom have trickled their way in and it is in these moments that I find hope.

For the first time in a very long time, I am letting myself experience feeling truly alive because I want to, not because I’m trying to impress or please someone else. For so long I have done this, enjoying something in order to share it on some kind of social media or with some person I care about with the hopes of ensuring their love and want for me. I would not enjoy something because I was simply created to enjoy it for myself. It was easier to connect myself with others, to put my identity and wants in their hands so I wouldn’t have to do the dirty work of figuring it out for myself.

And now, in this unexpected season of crazy beautiful and authentic and difficult grace, I am starting to face who I am, who I was created to be, and what makes me feel alive. I believe that humanity’s purpose is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. When I am enjoying life and dwelling in the moments that make me feel alive simply because I was created to enjoy them instead of trying to impress those around me, My God is glorified.

So here’s to figuring this process out. I know that it will be painful and that suffering is inevitable, but I also believe that that’s where life truly lies. Today I am thankful for grace and moments of loss that lead to moments of life. For supportive communities and teachers and leaders and writers and friends. I am thankful that we serve a God who desires for us to enjoy what He has provided. I hope you learn that what you want matters. That you were created to enjoy this life and find passion that will glorify our Great God. That even in the midst of pain and loss and unexpected change, the grace of our God is truly leading the charge in order for us to become closer to Him, glorify Him, and enjoy Him forever. Amen.