The One About Sororities

{disclaimer: I love my sweet friends in sororities & I believe they are a wonderful way to connect and meet life long friends– this is in no way trash talk}
 
Panhellenic recruitment is happening at Baylor this week.  That means stressed, scared and overtired freshman girls (and a few sophomores & juniors) are wandering around Baylor campus – probably in the rain.  Somehow, it always rains at least one day during recruitment week – just to make things even more stressful.  It also means some people will join a group of women that will enhance their lives in numerous ways.  It also means that some people will be disappointed and hurt.  Some people will change their profile pictures on Facebook and others will watch the profile pictures be changed, pretending not to feel excluded or sad.
 
I’m saying this because I know.  I rushed last year;  I went to the parties, small-talked until I lost my voice, and stressed every morning when I got my lists.  I also dropped out on the fourth day.  I had prayed about it and felt that it was something God was calling me to do, for my best interests (*disclaimer: this is not a sorority-bash post, and my dropping was something I felt God calling me personally to, not something I think he calls everyone to do).
 
Lately, I’ve seen a lot of posts from sorority women giving advice to sweet PNMs.  I am so proud of them for encouraging the girls that no matter where you end up, God will provide, God is faithful, and God is good.  They’re right – some of you will meet your best friends, your bridesmaids, maybe even your husband through greek life.  That’s absolutely fabulous – life is so enriched by new friends and new experiences.  Greek life can be a spectacular way to make connections, make wonderful friendships, and have a great time at college.
 
However, I haven’t seen any posts written to the girls who don’t get what they want and decide to leave the Panhellenic recruitment process (or those who are not “pref’ed” by any sororities).  It’s not exactly a happy subject – leaving the process, being disappointed.  But, I feel like it’s something I need to talk about.  Why?  Because, I’ve been there.  And I want to write some things for these girls, for you –  beautiful, strong, empowered, smart you
 
I struggled through watching Bid Day pictures appear on Facebook, I struggled through watching Big/Little pictures pop up in my newsfeed, and I struggled through watching my friends attend events that I didn’t.  And this all happened even though I chose to leave the process on my own.  I want you to know something, sweet girls: it’ll be okay.  You can get through it, and you’ll come out on the other side stronger and more sure of yourself with friends you might never have thought you’d have.  The hurt feelings will fade.  It’s not always easy to remember, but God provides.  
 
We are so blessed to have a God who is not exclusive.
He has called you beloved.  
He has called you to a bright future filled with joy and possibility.  
He loves you & is with you every step of every day.
 
You are wanted.
You are dear to Him.
You are never forgotten.
You are worth it.
 
Ladies, sometimes college can seem like all there is.  Sometimes, a sorority can seem like the be all and end all of having a wonderful college experience.  But it’s not.  A sorority can enhance your college experience, but it’s not the only way to have a wonderful, sweet, loving group of friends.  It’s not the only way to meet smart, capable, and lovely people.  It’s not the only way to make connections.  It’s not the only way to do life.
 
You are capable of creating your own wonderful college experience.  You choose whether you have four years worth remembering and worth treasuring.  Let me emphasize that: you choose.  God sometimes takes us through hard experiences to help us really understand who we are and to bring us closer to our ultimate goals.  Sometimes, God’s plan isn’t clear, but we know that it is good.  
 
When I decided to leave recruitment, I didn’t know why and I didn’t really want to.  I was unhappy with the sororities I had left, but I didn’t want to quit altogether until I heard the resounding “NO” from God.  I didn’t know why He was calling me not to, but I left.  It was one of the hardest things I’ve gone through.  I was hurt and confused.  However, God has shown me throughout this year that I was called to something different.  My path wasn’t the one I was on, and that’s okay.  In fact, it’s more than okay.  I have met some wonderful people.  I’ve been accepted for internships and joined Crane Scholars.  I had a birthday dinner for 30+ and have late night movie nights with friends.  I have a wonderful, beautiful, blessed life.  God is good, this I know.  I may not have understood it then, but I do now.
 
You – no matter what you decide, no matter whether you join a sorority (the one you wanted or the one you didn’t), whether you decide not to, or whether that decision is decided for you – are beautiful.  You are strong and you decide where your life goes from here.  Picture it like a Disney movie – you are on the upswing.  You are about to make a comeback.  You are the a warrior, brave and strong.  The female lead in your story.  A daughter of a King.
 
Don’t be bitter.  Don’t be angry.  Allow yourself some time to lick wounds if necessary, and allow yourself some time to celebrate.  Realize that this decision, albeit important, will not decide your whole life.  Realize where your priorities lie – living for God, following His will, loving others and pursuing them as Christ pursues us; these are things worth dwelling on.  Dwelling on rejection and hurt?  All that leads to is bitterness.
 
And you are way too pretty to be bitter.
 
If you’re joining a sorority, congratulations!!  I’m so happy for you and am praying for you every step of the way: you are going to meet so many wonderful people, make a difference through your philanthropy, and have a great time!  My Greek friends have had absolutely fantastic experiences and I’m so excited for the journey God has ahead of you.  Cherish it & remember what a blessing these wonderful women are.  They’re so special and so are you.

good luck & happy recruitment!

it’s 2014, y’all [happy new year!]

“She was thoroughly herself. Her palate for all the joys of sense and intellect and spirit was fresh and unspoiled. Nothing would’ve been wasted on her. She liked more things and liked them more than anyone I have ever known.” ~C.S. Lewis, “A Grief Observed”

It’s 2014.  It’s time for New Year’s resolutions, new diets, new semesters, and new friends.  It’s time for reinventing yourself and finding contentment in who you are right now.  It’s time for seeking God in new ways, passionately and creatively, and following Him down (occasionally) scary paths.  2014 is going to be a year for seeking, I think:

for seeking God, looking for His mark on each day of my life.  I want finding Him to be a process that is marked by joy and laughter and courage.  I want to ache for Him.  I want to seek Him first.  I want my love for Him to be so strong and so confident and so real that people can’t help but notice and wonder.

for seeking contentment, while, at the same time, seeking to be better and more than I was last year.  I’m finding that it’s okay to just be me, right now, as I am, not any skinnier, smarter, or stronger.  Just me is okay.

for seeking courage.  I want to refuse to be afraid, because I have no reason to be scared.  I want to be brave, and not fear being too much myself or too little like everyone else.  The future, gaining weight, losing friendships, bad grades, even death – God is in control.  Period.  I need to sink into that fact, letting myself be immersed in the fact that God is with me.  I am fragile and weak, but He is brave and strong and He is within me.  Whom shall I fear?

for seeking wisdom.  I want to never stop learning and I never want to stop being excited about new things.  I want to read and explore and look at things in new perspectives, because that’s what life’s about.

for seeking spontaneity.  But, I guess you don’t really seek that.  I guess you just take it when it comes and jump in.  I want to jump in more, and overthink less.  I want to take the plunge, not knowing how it’ll work out and being okay with that.  Over-thinking is for the birds.

I want to seek joy.
I want to seek beauty.
I want to seek wonder.

There are also some things I want to stop dwelling on.  I dwell on sadness and worry and fear.  I over-think to the point of insanity.  I ache over things I don’t have control over, and worry them to death.  These are things I want to get control over.  Stop worrying about if I’m doing enough or have enough friends or am using my time at Baylor to my best ability or am not losing enough weight and just be.

2014 is going to be a year of just being.  Sit still.  Think.  Don’t think too much though.  Stop worrying.  Stop being mean to yourself.  Stop being scared.  Stop thinking you’re not _______ enough.  You are more than enough: you are wonderful and smart and lovely and a child of the Creator of the Universe – a mean word, a mean person, or a string of unfortunate events can’t take that away from you.

Be brave.
Be strong.
Be joyful.
Be YOU (and don’t be ashamed or apologetic about it).

Know God is here with you.  Know He cares for you.  Know His love and joy for you is overwhelming and so worth every sacrifice you make to spend time with Him.

Spend time with God, more.  Get to know Him on a real, personal, scary intimate level.  It will be an adventure well worth it.
Spend time with yourself, because you’re awesome.
Spend time doing things you love, just because.
Spend time learning, always.
Spend time sleeping, because it’s actually a need, not a luxury.
Spend time with people you love and love them thoroughly.
Spend time being happy.  Not worrying.
Spend time being YOU.  I like you.  You should like you.

Happy 2014, y’all!

Choosing Gratitude

Sometimes, being grateful is a choice.
Actually, gratitude is always a choice.

We choose to be grateful, despite the fact that someone else may have more friends, more money, or a “better” life.

As a Christian, I choose to be grateful.  I make it my prerogative to find things to be grateful for, despite how much Facebook seems to tell me differently.  Just because someone seems to have the perfect life on the internet, in their filtered Instagram photos and joy-filled Facebook statuses, doesn’t mean that my life is any less beautiful or less worthy of gratitude.  Just because someone seems to be perfect doesn’t mean they are.

I choose to be grateful.
I choose to be thankful for all the wonderful people I have in my life.
I choose to praise God for the wonderful and the wonder-less; the beautiful and the ugly; the triumphs and the heartaches.  I praise Him despite circumstance.  I praise Him despite my feelings, despite my wants, and despite my complaints.  I choose to praise.

I choose to be grateful for all that I have been given, and be grateful that God gives us exactly what we need.  His works are not always understandable, but we know they are good.  We are confident they are good, and that is reason to give thanks.

We choose gratitude.  We choose to say an emphatic NO to social media’s spoiling our accomplishments and encouraging comparison between friends.  We choose to say “Thank You”, and focus on the good (and the God) in our lives.  We choose to praise God, despite circumstance.  We choose to have faith.

It’s all choices, guys.  It boils down to work and faith and fear and gratitude in a tangled mess.  Gratitude is built on heartache & sadness, sometimes.  Gratitude can be built on exceptional people, but it can also be built on unfortunate circumstances.

Praise is given, when someone chooses to sing.
Gratitude is found, when someone chooses to find it.

Happiness & New Years Resolutions

Where is joy found? 
We look for it in wealth, in fame, and in popularity.  We search for it in achievements and the right people surrounding us and relationships.  We think we’ll find it in the perfect body or the perfect haircut.  But we don’t find it there.I have found joy in seeking God with an open heart, pursuing people with real & earnest love, and concentrating on the beautiful (in ourselves, in others, and in the world).  Look at Philipians 4:8, y’all.  Joy is focusing on “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”  It’s thinking purely and acting purely and being pure in a way that stretches far past sexual purity.

I find myself the happiest when I’m racing after God with this excitement and wonder for what might happen next.  Running a marathon isn’t easy.  It’s not always a walk in the park and you don’t always feel motivated.  Every relationship is like that {exercising is DEFINITELY like that}.  With God, though, I’ve found that there is an eternal promise of love and grace and teaching that sinks into my life and captures & bewitches me, body and soul.

I am happiest when I am immersed in God’s word, when I know his promises and can feel his deep love for me in every ordinary thing I do, from washing dishes at the apartment to calling my mom on my way to class.

I am happiest when I know that even if I’m not happy right in this moment, God is more than those moments of sadness and doubt and worry: He is transcendent and beautiful and making my life new; full of wonder and beauty.

When I seek Him, I find Him.  That is where I find joy.  There I find wonder and enchantment.  I find peace and contentment in who I am, knowing that I am not worthy, but deemed worth it.  I say that a lot, because I think it’s a good phrase to live by.  When we know that we are unworthy, it makes the being “deemed worth it” part so much more miraculous.

This year, in your New Years resolutions, resolve to seek God.  To fight through the doubt and struggle to find him.  To look for him every day.  To cultivate real friendship and mentorship and relationship with He who knows you so well already.  To be happy.  To find Him.

merry late christmas & happy early new year!

The Best Kind of Love {merry christmas!}

I remember a Christmas in middle school where I was feeling particularly persecuted.  I had friends who went caroling and let me know they’d be stopping by my house so I could hear them.  I was so hurt by not being invited to go with them that I watched out the window the whole night for their car to pull up, and then hid in my room with the lights off, telling my mom to tell them that I wasn’t home (I wanted to seem too busy to hear their stupid caroling… that’s good friendship, kids).  I spent so much time feeling sorry for myself and taking my indignation out on other people that I made everyone else equally (if not more) miserable.  I think Christmas often ends up like that.  We get to the holiday season, and are consumed with all things self – I wish I had a boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife, I wish I had gotten that present, I wish my family was different- the list goes on.
Dante talks a lot about misguided love.  He says that all sin stems from disordered love – too much love for self, too much love for the wrong things, and not enough love for the right things (that dreaded “lukewarmness” that makes Christians squirm and run to their Bibles with renewed fervor).  I know that I fall into all of these categories at one time or another.  As sinners, we fall into these perversions of love regularly and I often look to Christmas as the perfect example of heavenly, real love.It’s interesting that these misguided loves are perverse versions of the incredibly beautiful and perfect real thing.  God’s love came down in the form of a little baby, the ultimate sacrifice.  I imagine God watching as that little baby was born, and set in a manger still smelling of farm animals.  I imagine Him seeing his beautiful son in the most humble of surroundings, worshipped by shepherds, wise men, and his earthly parents.  I imagine His heart breaking, knowing that this birth will lead to untimely and undeserved death.  I cannot fathom this kind of exceptional, heavenly love that turns a holiday into a holy-day.
There was such love for such an unworthy mass of people, from that first Christmas to ours in 2013 and to those in the future.  I imagine God sending this gift of love down and knowing.  He knew.  And He still sent His Son, knowing what we’d do to that precious baby years in the future.  What love.I like that the ultimate love and beauty the earth ever saw occurred in such an ugly place.  The barn was probably not warm and cozy and filled with quiet, nice animals.  It was probably cold and dirty and filled with smelly animals who were too loud for a new baby’s ears.  I imagine that God watched as His son was dismissed from the inn and was birthed in a barn and shook his head at this wryly, because this is so true of Christ and the world every day - He comes into our squalor with grace and humility and loves & saves us still. He comes into the barns and the dirt of our lives and yet he still is here.  He sits with us and lives with us and mourns and loves and cares for us and I can’t understand it.  I don’t think I will ever.

The gift that God gave that first Christmas is unfathomable. Dante calls God the “love that moves the sun and other stars.”  That great love.  That great sacrifice.  God’s love moves my sun and stars and transforms my life.  I am knocked to my knees again, as I always am when I think about the Christmas story.  This Christmas, let’s think about that Great Love and work towards loving others with that sacrificial attitude and pursuit instead of getting caught in misdirected love, centered on ourselves.

Instead of thinking about wants and wishes and complaints, let’s think about the greatest gift we’ve been given and ever will be given in our lives:

Jesus.  Eternal life.  Unwarranted and undeserved love from a God too great to comprehend.

Merry Christmas!

Seeking Perfection [and where I found it]

Insecurity pushes us to do strange things.  Growing up in an intense prep school, I learned right away that I was definitely not the smartest person there.  I never worried about being the best, because I knew I wasn’t.  That was a good thing, I think.  I was never prideful, and I realized that numbers and letters on a report card don’t define me.  I realized that doing my best, excelling as well as I could, is all you can do.As I got to college though, armed with study strategies and test prep, I found myself the proud owner of a 4.0 and member of honor societies and honors colleges and compliments from friends that I had it so together.  I immediately swelled.  It was like my head grew ten sizes all at once.  All of that humility and contentment with doing my best vanished in one instant.

I had to be the best.
I would show them all.
I have to make a 4.0 or I will be worthless.The desperation to maintain this image overwhelmed me.  The pride I felt with finally feeling like I had something to offer was so wonderful that I seemed to lose myself, my goals, who I was in the process.  I felt like I was trying to keep up a farce that was slipping away.  They’ll find out I’m not that smart, I’m not that great.  I felt so fake and even my accomplishments didn’t fill the hole that was growing larger and larger in my chest.  I was emptying out.  I was hollow and broken.

I think this is where the best stuff happens.  In that brokenness, I mean.  When you’re so hollow, it seems nothing can fill you.  Thankfully, God has such an immense capacity to fill and provide and pour into me so that I am anything but hollow– filled with His spirit and love and reassurance that who I am is enough, that my best is enough, that I, insecure and dirty and broken, am beautifully and wondrously enough.

The best part about looking at myself like this is that I find that I am smart.  I am blessed with opportunity and a bright future and the ability to work hard and do more and be more.  However, that isn’t who I am.

I’m not my grades.
I’m not my weight.
I’m not how nice I am to people or how many times I’ve stumbled.

I am a child of God, called to closeness with the One who knows me best.  The one who cares for me and loves me and cherishes me as I am, dirt and all.  We are created to love and be loved, mirroring the love that God so generously lavishes on us daily in our lives with others (and with ourselves).  That is who I am.  A mirror and a magnifying glass and a sweet reflection of He who is GREAT, who is POWERFUL, who is LOVE.

I am so glad to not live up to something I will never achieve.

Perfection isn’t possible, y’all.  It’s only possible in HIM who helps us overcome imperfections and live in the beauty that overwhelms the empty spaces in us.  He is perfect, and we are not.  That is such a wonderful promise- we don’t live up to perfection, we live up to doing our best and working hard in the tasks before us, but we aren’t called to perfection.

Be thankful that you aren’t living up to that standard.  Be thankful that you are a child of God, finding identity there in that beautiful space.  You are worth it, just as you are.

Never worthy, but deemed worth it by a God who knows me best and loves me anyway.
That’s better than a 4.0, I think.

The Problem with Pluto

I am the center of my universe.  Everything in culture affirms this: Do what you want.  You deserve it.  You can do it.  You control your destiny.Lately, though, I am finding such solace and peace in not knowing, in recognizing that I am so undeserving, in knowing I can’t always do everything, and that God ultimately controls my destiny and my life.  There is so much peace in the knowledge that I am not the center of the universe.  I think about God and my life sort of like I think about the planets [RIP Pluto].  I think about God as the sun, and my world orbitting around him.  I yearn to be like Mercury, so close to God that his heat and fire have set me aflame.  However, I often feel like Pluto, not even a planet anymore I’m so far away from the sun.  It’s like I can see God from a distance, he’s there- a pinpoint of golden light separated from me by thousands of stars.  Most of the time though, I feel like Earth.  I’m near enough to God that he warms me, fills me with life and beauty and sets new growth in me, but he doesn’t truly set me on fire.  I’m not so close that I absorb and radiate his rays.  I’m not so close that I’m dangerously near to becoming emerged within Him, being set on fire by His light and presence.  I allow myself to stay close, but not so close that I might become immersed in his flames, his passion, and his essence.  I like myself a little too much to wholly commit to allowing Him to dwell wholly within me.

I really like the verse, Psalm 46:5, which says, “God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved.”  That’s what I’m stretching myself towards.  I’m reaching my hands up, fingers outstretched, trying to be closer and dwell near to God.  I want him to dwell within me with such fire and such passion that I am immersed in Him.  I’d like to be Mercury.

The problem with me though is that I so often am Pluto.  I find myself deep to my ears in worldly culture and ideals.  I find myself striving towards being the most beautiful, the smartest, or the best friend.  I don’t strive towards God, and I find myself slipping farther out of reach.  While he can see me perfectly, He is becoming a pinpoint far away and just about of sight to me.  I am cold and I forget the feel of His warmth on my bare skin.  I forget what it’s like to be on fire with His passion and love and grace.  I become Pluto so often when I’m angry or hurting or confused.  I don’t want to be Pluto any longer.

I want to be so firmly immersed in God’s truth and presence that I cannot be moved.
I want to be Mercury, nearest to God and radiating His presence.
I want to stray from my place with Pluto, growing closer, reaching, striving, seeking God in all that I do.

I want to be Mercury.

Untangling Knots [happy thanksgiving!]

The sky is a dull gray, it’s raining and the droplets shatter like ice onto the pavement in front of my house.  I’m sitting at a mahogany table covered in tissues, German handouts, and a mug of hot chocolate.  The drizzle outside muffles the sound of the TV from the other room, and I’m trying to study for an oral exam tomorrow.There is so much to be done.

There are papers and tests and homework to prepare for, weight to lose, rooms to be organized and cleaned, and presents to be bought.  There are parties to be planned, dinners to attend, and thanksgivings to cook and clean for.  There is a never-ending to do list stretching out before me, and I am hurriedly checking off one item after another, just in time for the next to be added.  I am never finished, and I never feel complete.  I schedule in quiet time that never happens, and I am caught up in work, work, work.  While all busy-ness cannot end, some can be put aside for an hour so that I can finally have the quiet time that I so desperately need and crave.  That, however, to my human-must-continue-must-never-stop brain, seems reckless and unproductive.  Why be still?  Why on earth be content simply as I am?

Everything is die-hard important, these days.  No one ever says, “Maybe I’ll try to…”, it’s become “I must lose weight”, “I have to get straight A’s”, “I need that purse”, and “I need more friends”.  When did my wants and needs start weaving themselves into a knot so complex that I can’t untangle it and figure out which is which?  I am pulling at the strands, trying to decipher what is a need and what is a want, what must be done and what can wait until tomorrow, what is craving and what is real hunger.

I think about what I said to my dad earlier today.  He was encouraging met to lay down and take a nap, since I’ve been sick and need rest.  My answer?  “Dad, I can’t.  I have to organize my schedule for tomorrow, study more for my German oral exam- I need to make an A- and read all these papers for ministry…”  The list went on and on, until Dad suggested canceling some of my engagements tomorrow in favor of trying to get some rest.  I was horrified.  I told him that I just had to see those people, do those things, work out to lose weight, and get my haircut. I just had to.  I see the strings knotting together again, when needs become entangled with wants and can-wait-till-later’s.  I understand the importance of schoolwork, keeping engagements, and attending appointments, but sometimes you need to rest and be still.  You need to detangle the knots in your life, and decide what is want and what is need.

I need to untangle.  I need to remind myself, especially in the Christmas season, what is want and what is need.

need Jesus, not straight-A’s.
need God’s grace and love, not that new Kate Spade bag.
need to spend time with Christ daily, not schedule out every moment so that no moment is spent alone.

While some of these things would be wonderful, they are not necessary.  They are not needs.  Will my future unravel if I don’t make straight A’s?  Probably not.  Will my world end if I’m not quite as fit as the girl running the beartrail?  No.  Will the world continue turning if I am not as well-dressed or well-accessorized as the people around me?  Yes.

Let’s untangle our knots.  They deceive us into thinking that we always need more, and grant us greediness that corrupts our power to be thankful and see clearly all the good God has gifted us in our lives.  There is so much to be thankful for, so much to love and cherish within our lives right now.  I’m so grateful, guys.

Happy early Thanksgiving, y’all.

Twenty.

ImageI’m sitting at my desk, writing a paper way past my bedtime.  I’m burning candles because I like to think that I’m literally burning the midnight oil (wax?).  My heart is full, my bed is covered in cards, books, and presents, and my life is sweeter than fiction.  I am content in the most blissful, full of spaghetti and breadsticks, vanilla diet dr. pepper and new book smell way.  My birthday is over, with a trip to Oklahoma, a birthday dinner for 30+, and a small group birthday lunch in its wake.  I am sohappy. There are too many good friends to count, too many amazing cousins and aunts and uncles to mention, and too many blessings to try to thank God for.  Birthdays are my favorite, and this one has been exceptionally sweet and wonderful.

I’ve been avoiding this blog, because I wanted the words to be right and perfect.  People expect that, right?  I’ve had time to work on it.  Nine days since my last post, nine days to write and think and rewrite and rethink.  Nine days to really live and then pour that life into words.  Yet, there are no words for the kind of thankfulness I’m feeling and the kind of responsibility that comes with that joy.

I have so many friends.  I may complain that I have no one to hang out with and that no one understands at one point or another, but I know that I am always accounted for.  I am always cared for and loved in a constant flow of cards and texts and phonecalls and Starbucks coffee.  I was loved so well at a birthday dinner for 30+ at Olive Garden, at a lunch thrown by my ninth grade small group, and at a dinner at Poppa Rollo’s.  I was and am and will be loved by these sweet and remarkable people that I don’t deserve.  There is so much beauty in that.  There is beauty in celebrating life, and time passing and new friends and old friends and the continuity of God’s faithfulness.  There is beauty in having too many friends at a huge dinner party at Olive Garden and talking loud and sharing breadsticks and laughing and reading cards that are sticky sweet with the exact words you need to hear.  There is God in that, I think.  I see Him there.

I have such an impossibly wonderful family.  I have people to celebrate twenty years of thanksgivings, school pictures, long talks on the various porches of aunts’ houses, and group pictures (from clunky 90′s cameras to sleek white iPhones) with.  I forget what a lucky thing that is.  I shouldn’t say lucky, but blessed is so overused lately.  I want the word to resonate deep in the hearts of my family, but I can’t find one good enough.  I’ll just say this: each and every one of you make my life immensely more meaningful, beautiful, and full of joy.  I am me, because you are you.  You show me God’s love daily from all corners of the world, and you love me so, so well.  I have no words that would adequately describe what you mean to me.

Now, that I start a new year- from 20 to 21 (it seems impossible)- I have 10 resolutions for my 20th year.

  1. Love more [more people, more actively, more, more, more]
  2. Seek God every day.  Not just on the good ones.
  3. Be okay with myself now, as I am.  Not ten pounds less, with a better haircut, or a better life.  Just me, as I am, is good.  God said so, and I’m choosing to believe in his assessment, rather than my own.
  4. Be brave.
  5. Be wondrously aware of God’s goodness, and His presence in my life.  I want to live in awe.
  6. Actually be healthier, instead of buying some apples that I won’t eat and a cookbook I won’t read.
  7. Write more.
  8. Live life for God’s glory, and not my own.
  9. Learn to cook.
  10. Live purposefully, loving and breathing and working with everything I’ve got, because life is so precious.  Twenty years in a snap of my fingers, and I’m finally realizing what my mom meant about time going by so fast it doesn’t seem possible.

I hope you, out there in cyberspace, are feeling loved.  I hope you are somewhere comfy with lots of hot chocolate and a phone with a dozen family member’s numbers and friends to text at a moment’s notice.  If you are, don’t take it lightly- you’ve been given such a wonderful and breathtaking gift.  Appreciate it for all it’s worth, cling to it in the dark times and rejoice in it in the beautiful times.  Love those people with all you’ve got.  They deserve it, and you do to.

If you don’t have that right now, I ache for you.  I ache for that missing piece, but I rejoice with you because I know that God always, always provides.  He is present and working.  Allow Him to fill the gaps that seem too large in every sense, and I guarantee He’ll overflow them with joy and peace and comfort.I’m twenty.  I’m starting a new decade.  I wonder if the world is ready for almost-adult Callie.  Well, ready or not.

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the Doxology & why it’s my favorite hymn

ImageI went to a Kierkegaard seminar on Saturday night with the Cranes Scholars, and during Vespers, we sang the Doxology.  I would say it’s probably my favorite hymn.  I think I love it so much because it brings back a lot of sweet memories from my childhood.  My family sang the Doxology every Thanksgiving, and we sang it loudly, in public, in backyards, and in living rooms.  We sang it in harmony (occasionally) and off key (on my part) and we sang it in a jumble of voices of people brought together from states, countries, and even continents away to be with family and be grateful.  There is my grandfather the card shark and sleepovers with cousins and morning coffee with my aunts and life lived in the words to the Doxology.  It is a constant reminder to praise God from whom all blessings flow, because my family is such a big blessing to me.The Doxology also is mentioned (once) in one of my favorite children’s books, the Secret Garden.  I don’t know if this even strikes a chord within y’all, because I don’t know if you read this book over a hundred times and listened to the audio book, or the Focus on the Family theater-on-CD version during every single car ride on your cool portable CD player with the chunky headphones (before Beats were cool) like I did.  Anyway.  Mary, Collin, and Dickon sing it in the garden together.  It’s before Collin has had his masterful transformation and Mary is just starting to become less pasty and irritable and Dickon is teaching them his lifestyle of birds and trees and God and peace despite poverty.

I always thought I was Dickon in the story of my life.  I wished I was the sweet teacher, helping Mary and Collin see beauty in God’s creation, guiding them to rebuild their lives with a foundation in strength and hard work and love.  As I grow older, I realize I am more like Mary and Collin.  Mary is a lonely, irritable and selfish kid who doesn’t spend enough time outside or being grateful.  Collin is a spoiled, angry heir to a fortune who spends more time feeling sorry for himself than he does actually living life.  I used to think both of them were terrible and un-relatable (to a perfect kid like me, you know) until they started hanging out with Dickon, but slowly, I am realizing we are all Marys and Collins.  We are all lonely and selfish and and angry and we all fall into pits of discouragement and wallow there for too long.  We all look for Jesus, who Dickon reminds me a lot of- since he’s loving and kind and cares for all the creatures here below.

There is a beauty in realizing that Jesus wants to teach us how to get out of those pits of discouragement.  He wants to lead us from the dark shadows of anger and doubt and fear into the light of a garden that is blooming with life and growth and newness.  There is this comfort in the fact that Christ loves us so dearly, despite our selfishness and spoiled natures, despite our shortcomings and our low points, and he wants us in His garden.  He wants to share with us this secret of life and He wants us to see Him as someone from whom blessings eternally flow.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow.  The line resonates with me and provokes me to live my life like I know what that means.  It plucks memories from my tangled thoughts of Thanksgivings and laughter and cards and kitchen tables and cousins.  It reminds me of audiobooks listened to on roadtrips and Jesus and thankfulness.  It reminds me of Mary and Dickon and Collin.  It reminds me that I am a child, and will always learn and make mistakes and fall and run and love like a child, until I mature fully into the woman Christ has made me to become.

Praise Him all creatures here below.  Praise Him above ye, heavenly hosts.  Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.

PS: HAPPY BIRTH MONTH, Y’ALL!  I turn twenty in eight days!