Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Burdenless

"I wanna feel weightless, and that should be enough"
-All  Time Low, Weightless

Yesterday I left my house with literally full hands. That might not sound that strange, but when you take the bus everywhere, you learn how to pack light and big so that you have your hands free to shove into your pockets or signal thank you's to the cars letting you pass.

But sometimes, when you have a full extra hour to kill before work, the best thing you can do is grab the package you have to mail, the shirt you have to return, your crazy pre-packed meals for the day, and the big bag of stuff you need to deliver to work, and you go for it. Even when you have a massive headache that's making you feel a little sick.

The very interesting thing about cold weather, at least for me, is the way it makes you appreciate how simple tasks are in the spring. Snow may be very pretty, but it's also very reflective, and nothing intensifies a headache like ridiculous exposure to sun. Walking in a big puffy jacket, with leggings under my pants, and my eskimo sized hood over my face, I can feel the extra weight of keeping warm, literally. Also, getting to the bus stop with your arms full is not so bad if you can leave the box on the ground while you wait. That's a no-go when the ground is white and wet. Another fun fact about the bus and snow- even when the snow is not new, the bus schedule is messed up. You just kind of go and hope to get lucky enough to catch one sooner rather than later.

My luck is not that good. I prayed.

I arrived at the bus stop about 37 seconds before the bus did. Both on the way to the post office, and on the way to work afterwards. Miracles, apparently, do occur.

At each new location as I arrived, I felt my load literally lighten- first the loss of a surprisingly heavy box, then the loss of the sweatshirt and the bag it came in, then my lunch as I placed it away in fridge, and finally the things I brought for work. Each one took a few pounds off the big mess I was carrying, until my bag held only my essentials, and weighed almost nothing. My headache eased a bit with each task completed, as if the stress of a to-do list was contributing to the pressure. Even removing my burly layers made me feel smaller. By the time I arrived at my desk, I felt, literally, relieved.

Matthew 11:30, (ESV) reads "For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” If you've ever been in a church before, you may have heard this verse. And maybe laughed at it, like I used to. Some days, the burden of being a Christian is unbelievable. You believe that you have found this Messiah that the rest of the world doesn't see. You believe their eternity hangs in the balance, and all they want to do is laugh at you as they try to get you to use swear words. You  are trying to live your life by this conducted moral code and all around you the world is pressing in. trying to break you out of the Jesus bubble you hide in. All this is just compounded on top of the rest of the worries you have- "who will I be? What is my future like? Do I have enough time for a haircut this weekend?" It's exhausting.

We need someone to take the bags and lighten the load.

See, Jesus didn't mean for us to worry about any of this. He came so that we could let it all go. So we could look at others, love them, and let Him work through us. He cares for the future, for who we become, and for those pesky friends who want us to cuss. He cares for the plans we make and what happens in our lives. We just need to trust him and give him our massive purses and our boxes to mail and our returns... He has it handled. It leaves us plenty of time to figure out the haircut, which is less of a problem when there aren't 100 things on our minds.

I am learning to give my burdens to Jesus. And it's like taking off my winter clothes all over again. I feel the ease of each day. and celebrate each morning for it's newness. I am restored and renewed by what the Lord has done. It's incredible. It's like Advil migraine after a long morning- the pressure dulls, weakens, and finally ceases. And I'm left wide awake, empty handed, and ready to go out into the bright world and show off the life I have in my Messiah.

Thank you God, for emptying my hands.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Punk Rock Revelations

“Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there someday.” 
-Winnie the Pooh

Punk rock always makes me nostalgic for high school. 

I remember the days of listening to Yellowcard blast out "If I could find you now, things would get better" into the night. (We had to blast the music, because in order to sing along, you had to half sing, half scream, and it was never pretty,  and needed to be covered if you were going to do it right.) We'd literally drive to nowhere, tearing up our vocal chords, singing songs that we didn't really understand about people we didn't yet know. 

I was a different person then, an emo girl with a misunderstanding of love, a distrust of the world around me, and a number of obstacles that stood between me and God. I was moody and often harsh, but inside I was also vulnerable and pondering, constantly wondering how to change my world without losing myself. I worried all the time, about everything from what to wear to what I would do with my life. I walked around with a constant fear that I would not be able to measure up to anything, or to complete easy tasks. In short, I was a teenager.

Flash forward to now, almost a full 8 years since my 18th birthday. My life is drastically different than how I saw it during my school years. I have seen adulthood from the other side. There have been weddings, there have been babies, there have been graduations of many kinds. There have also been funerals, seasons of being broke, and real heartaches. My life has, despite the worries of my angst-filled years, gone on. It's mellowed me out considerably. 

But sometimes, I just really want to listen to The Starting Line. Because I want to remember who I was. 

Recently, it occurred to me how the truth about love has really changed me. If you've been following my posts, you've seen me talk about how I want to love people whole heartedly and for all they are, not just the good they hold. I have a hard time doing this with the girl who lives in my past. I look back at her and all her sensitivities and often want to kick her for her dramatic attachments to things that were ultimately unimportant. I often say to my friends that I have a theory why God doesn't let us invent time travel- we might just go back in time and kill ourselves. 

Past me is hard for present me to love. 

Remember the episode of full house where Michelle has amnesia from the horse riding accident? At the end of the two-parter, if I remember correctly, the lost and confused Michelle meets the old, memory filled version of herself, and the two embrace and become one again. I almost envision this happening with all of us- the moment when we can step back in life and embrace who we used to be with who we've become is the moment we become whole. I mean, if everything happens for a reason, shouldn't we be glad for all we've been through? But it's hard when we measure ourselves up against the what-I-know-now standard.

So recently, I've been listening to some of that old music, trying to get a little bit of myself back. Because I always liked the music, and it always made me feel alive.

I hope one day that present me will look back on who I currently am, and laugh about how I struggled to understand things. I hope she will have cracked the solution to really loving whole heartedly. I hope that she will figure out how to get me to like more exercise and less ice cream. I hope that she will laugh about how I worry about my future now. 

But mostly I just hope she will be able to embrace all that has occurred in her life, from start to finish. Even if she doesn't like punk rock anymore. 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Learning to Follow

“Listen through your screams to the wind still whispering: Don't give up -- Surrender!” 
― Eric Ganther

When I was 20, I was told that I was a natural leader.

That was not something that I wanted to hear. While I may have exhibited some of the (let's call them) skills that were often attributed with leadership, such as a rather loud voice that can quiet a room, a stern expression that can make people apologize before I have even spoken, and the ability to get people to jump on board with some of my crazier notions, I was weary of the term leader. In my spirit, I had always felt that I was called to be a follower.

And now, it's been six years, and while I still feel that calling, I have learned something about myself that gives me pause.

I have no idea how to follow.

Following has always been a romantic concept to me. You fall in line with the leadership of the group and do what you are asked. You do not sit up all night and consider the alternatives to the instructions, but instead, allow yourself to be guided. You do not challenge every little thing that is said just to see if there is a better alternative. You are not held responsible for the actions of those you cannot control. This should not be difficult.

But for me, it is. Because much of my personality strives toward leadership. I am a plethora of well reasoned arguments, each one commanding the attention of the group. I struggle to accept any way of doing something if it seems there might be a better or more feasible way. Or even the concept of one, which then leads me down the path of weighing all ideas. I think there might even be something in the way I stand, because even in college, when we are put into small groups with people we barely knew the names of, I was always the assumed leader before we even got together. My whole adult life has screamed of leading.

Still, my heart cries out to follow.

To follow means to abandon our own contrary nature and to be instructed. It requires a peace with quickly coming change, and an acceptance of each moment as it comes before it even arrives. To follow is to basically give someone else control. And I don't give up control very well.

As you might have imagined, my control issues do not serve well in my relationship with God. My faith poses a huge initiative to give the reigns of my life over and let the Lord guide my life. I am told to give up the worry and pretense the shrouds humanity and to allow every moment it's own blessings and challenges. For years now, I have internally worked myself against this, grabbing at little moments in which  I think I can be in control. Or that I "know better". It's exhausting.

I'm giving that all up now. I am going to learn to follow.

My heart cries out to let things happen. To be ready and accepting of each situation by giving in and letting go. No more worrying about what I am going to do with my life or who I will marry or what tomorrow will bring. These are not my concerns anymore. I will learn to follow, so that with each new day will be a wonderful surprise, not a calculated hope.

My natural talents will just have to step aside for now.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Equipped and Ready

"Lifted out of the wreckage, I find hope in the aftermath."
-Hillsong United, Aftermath

Last week, my little hometown experienced a little snow fall, and a lot of panic. And I learned something about my family.

We are definitely the kind of people you want around in "emergencies."

My body informed me at 7:00 am that it was time to get up and get to work. My sister and my father were already outside getting starting with some shovels and the snow blower (an acquisition my father had put together only a few days before). We only stayed out until about 9:30 that morning, but we managed to uncover the walkways and cars of many of our neighbors, and the driveways of most of the street.

Then we all went inside,  changed, and headed out to our respective jobs... just to find that half the state had decided they weren't going to brave the snow.

What's interesting about life is that sometimes we don't realize how different we are until we see the contrast illuminated. I can't imagine a snow fall that wasn't strategically planned... in my house we watch the news to see when it's coming, what the temperature will be the following day (will it melt? will it freeze?), and what to expect the roads will look like. We keep a stash of canned food for emergencies, and logs by the fireplace. We have many blankets and sheets for if the power goes out. And flashlights. Somewhere in my house there must be about 100 flashlights.

A few years ago, we went through a hurricane that washed away a piece of our foundation. The flooding was disastrous to us and to our neighbors. The full cleanup took months- rebuilding is still in progress for many of the homes that were affected. The hurricane took us a little by surprise- water creeping up the street quickly escalated early in the morning, and took just a few hours to start soaking into first floor levels. No one was entirely prepared for that night- not even my family, who has been through a flood once before. Sure, we'd moved much of the important stuff out of the basement. But the first floor? It felt unreal.

It was a really difficult time in my life that followed. Rebuilding is a physical, mental, and emotional experience that becomes very draining. We relied on the help of many of our friends at that time to get us through. One man from our church came to help my family- we didn't know him very well, nor he us, but he came every day that it was possible for him to help anyway. He was able to take instruction and  get all the work done efficiently. He didn't waste time, but took breaks often just to sit with us when things got rough.. he is a fantastic person to have around in crisis.

I didn't see it then, but we were learning from his example.

The following year, we were much better prepared for hurricane season. Equipped with a generator and our collection of flashlights, we bundled together with the neighbors and waited for the storm. And while we were blessed not to be flooded again, we lost power for about a week. But this time, we were ready. We quickly created our own routine. And once settled into that, my whole family (including the friends who have become like family) were able to get involved in creating a shelter and charging station in town for some people who hadn't been as prepared for what was coming. Each day, I  would return from work, and head over to shelter to help serve a hot meal to those in the shelter, set up cots if needed, and just spend some time talking to some of those who were looking for more than just heat. It touched me to be able to be part of something like that, as I remembered those who had been there  to help us only months before.

Less than a foot of snow hardly qualifies as an emergency to me. Clean up takes less than 3 hours. You don't lose heat inside the house. You can eat normal food and resume normal life. But then again, I have a frame of reference that allows me to be ready for more, for bigger things.

I don't look back at the experiences in my life that were hard with any malice. As a matter of fact, I am grateful that I have been through what I have, because it has prepared me for the small things that are coming my way. It has reminded me to rely on God in all things, and to remember what is important in each moment. I have learned how to physically help out, but more than that, I have learned that love is above all things for a reason- it keeps us swaddled and safe when all the physical fails.

We are good to have around in emergencies, my family and I. We are prepared for the whole picture. It let's us see outside our needs and work for the community. I believe this is part of the training the Lord is putting me through so one day I may better share Him and His love.

And it's quickly becoming one of my favorite things about who I am.