Sunday, March 30, 2008
Frankly I'm exhausted just looking at it. After about 4 minutes, I put it aside and put my head on the table -- "I need to just rest."
But the thing is, after being so busy lately, I'm having a hard time figuring out how. Life has combined today to make for windy, somewhat dreary soul-weather: too blown about to have much attention span, and not very cheerful either. How does one write a "recipe for happy" if one knows something needs done and can't quite find the oomph to go do it?
This will take some more thought.
Saturday, March 29, 2008
In observing Lent this year, I think God taught me something without me having any idea that He was teaching me it while it was happening: Without exception, everything about life has parts of it that are really, really hard.
It sounds cynical when I say it, but it really does have great value, especially because my real point is this--
I can still love life and love my Savior to an unfathomable degree no matter what. Everything in life has some level of drudgery and unpleasantness, but if I know that to begin with, I can avoid unrealistic expectations that will keep me from appreciating the good and joy that is in all things as well.
By always waiting for the perfectly wonderful thing around the bend, I not only neglect the good that I have now (thereby seeing only the annoying, difficult parts) but I also set myself up to be disappointed when I find the "perfectly wonderful thing" inevitably has some painful things about it. If I can reshape those expectations, though, I can be better prepared to find the good, deal with the bad, and seek God in both aspects, now and in the future.
In a nutshell, through Lent 08, God showed me that life is just plain difficult.
...But only parts of it. Mostly, if I can learn to look for it, it is blessed and beautiful.
Thursday, March 27, 2008
My little brother said something to me in the car the other day that made me pause: "Yeah -- I'm glad to be single. I can talk to lots of girls and it's not a big deal because I don't have to stick with just one." Yeah, I thought -- why try to narrow it down so quickly? And then I started mentally. Shouldn't I take my own advice?
I think in a lot of ways we mortals narrow things down too quickly, thinking we know the only way things will work. But by doing so, we push aside inspiration that might come from walking in the dark, not lighting our own sparks.
In the 40 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter, I've been trying to live "moment-to-moment", taking joy in each day and not looking beyond the mark at the things I don't yet have. It's been a challenge, and still is, but I think that one of the most important things I've seen is that each day is out of my hands. That all I am given is this one moment, and even as I work to make it the best, I need to work to let it go and let Christ step in.
In a lot of ways I am still walking in the dark, still looking more at all of the things ahead than I probably should. However I think I can see a little better that everything has its hard parts, no matter what, and so it is our responsibility as God's children to see Him in all things.
So here's to learning to do that, one moment at a time.
Thursday, March 20, 2008
when the quiet mind is least appreciated
with its whispered questions,
echoes their only answer
I, for once, turn to physical reality
the perfect pants
laughter on the phone
bright tissue boxes
the murmer of the radio
I, the thinking girl,
often alone with her thoughts and
rather liking it that way, usually,
Reaches toward these little joys
Forgetting, a little, what the questions were at all
My first thought was, "Gosh, but there's so many!"
Patience and humility have been big ones lately, though. I am trying to gratefully acknowledge my dependence on the Lord as I wait for His timing and His blessings. I think lately He is teaching me that I am completely dependent on Him ... that my joy has nothing to do with me and everything to do with Him ... that there are times when I can do my part and still struggle to find peace ... that when the peace does come, I need to be grateful for His tender mercies.
If life was nothing but easy, or fun, I'd never learn anything. I know that. But it's easy to forget the easy and fun parts (or perhaps worse, think about them too much) when I'm solidly fixed in the middle of a season of learning. Sometimes it's hard to imagine that I will miss this, sitting at work passing the time between phone calls, going home to my family and all the things I don't have to figure out how to pay for. And then I realize I will miss it, and am exhausted just at the thought of going to school full-time, and working part-time, and still being expected to carry my burdens on my own, to doggedly keep seeking the Lord even when His hand is not obvious to my lonesome, fearful, mortal eyes.
But I like to believe there's some kind of middle ground there...that I can live, moment-to-moment, enjoying all of the love that surrounds me, bravely facing the difficulties before me, and knowing that I will be blessed in the future. I can't see the bigger picture with these mortal eyes, and while I could imagine it, the possibilities are so endless and varied that I don't find it very useful to do so. I keep walking, trusting -- hoping -- that if I'm getting off on the wrong path, He'll let me know, and that if He's not saying that, it means that I'm headed toward something too beautiful to imagine. I wish I could step less hesitantly, but God knows me. He understands. So I leave it to the Lord to show me what I need to see, here, now, and I try to accept that sometimes the Lord simply leads us through darkness, as we turn inward to Him for our light.
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
1. Fall in love. Really in love, not "I'm lonely" love, or "I'm bored" love. I want "you are my best friend" love, "we are a team no matter what" love. I want to admire someone deeply as a person, to know I am so blessed to get to spend my time now and forever with them. Anything else just wouldn't be enough.
2. Travel. Gosh, just EVERYWHERE, especially Europe and Central / South America and all over the US though those are by no means the only places. I want to see the things I've only read about, only seen pictures of. I want to see God; the world is so BIG and too many of us experience very little of it. I want to love it all.
3. Learn. I am so blessed to be pursuing my college degree right now, but I by no means plan for that to be the end of it. I want to continue to take classes...pottery, fencing, automotive, lots of things. I want to be certified as a massage therapist, and certified for first aid, and maybe to be a lifeguard, too! And of course, I want to learn more about how I, personally, can be a better, more connected child of God.
4. Write. Working on this latest story has gotten me so fired to write, as much as I can. I think it's interesting that the more I love writing for the simple creative act, the more I think about publishing someday. Not even because I want to necessarily share my writing, but just that, I guess, our babies -- all of them -- are meant to go out into the world at some point and stand on their own. So I want to write books and love myself and God a little more because of it.
5. Be beautiful. Now, I want to point out that this actually overlaps with the other ones. I don't just mean "be a size 2 and have amazing skin and hair and the perfect manicure all the time and perfect teeth and lasik surgery." That's looking "beautiful" -- notice the quotes, by the way. I want to BE beautiful, and to me, that's kind of the opposite. I want to be satisfied with who I am as God created me, with the humility to change and the courage to stand firm. I want to be happy with how my life has turned out, where I'm heading, and what I'm doing in the meantime to prepare for that. I want a beautiful life, full of love and adventure (even on just a small scale) and learning and God, and I want that beauty to come out in who I am.
And that, friends, is my bucket list as of today. I expect my dreams and aspirations to expand, to become more detailed, to change. We'll just have to see.
Sunday, March 16, 2008
Odd one first, since I know you're dying to hear it -- but it does take a little background information. I've been in a terrible funk for oh, a week, maybe two? This was particularly discouraging (and a little scary, to tell you the truth) considering I'd been on such a high spiritual level for a week or two before that. It was like all at once I got really tired of putting as much work as I needed to into being happy, and was really thrown-off by that. To get around it, I've tried to keep busy -- not terribly hard when you work full-time, write, and hang out with your family. But it was the moments that ordinarily would be spent in quiet gratitude to the Lord that I spent being, well, pretty miserable, for no real reason that I could put my finger on. Fortunately, I have no "big trials" in my life right now, just little things that keep me on my toes. So why on earth was I such a wreck?
I see now that perhaps my 100% effort changed, for whatever reason, and I was left needing the Lord more than I expected, or was prepared to do. In all of my questing to be happy and grateful and especially humble, I think that things got a little misplaced. Two pages through my journal last night, I decided that I've been saying
I will gratefully acknowledge my complete dependence on Thee,
I will gratefully acknowledge my complete dependence on Thee.
Ironic, isn't it? In all of my struggle and work, I lost track of the fact that I'm struggling and working to let go. Of my heart, my happiness, my day-to-day doings, and let God take them into His infinitely more capable hands, because obviously I don't even have the power to create my own happiness. Instead of being mad at Him for not letting me to it myself, there are times when I really do need to just let Him do it for me.
It's like trying to open a pickle jar. (Isn't that an awesome metaphor??) I try and try and try but sometimes I just need Dad to do it -- although more often than not, he has me hold the jar while he turns the lid. So you needn't be surprised when I tell you that last night, I prayed "Heavenly Father, please help me to hold the jar, and let You open it, instead of trying to do it all on my own." I think He knows what I meant, don't you?
Okay, time for the less kooky metaphor. Anyone who reads my blog probably reads Cindy's, and therefore you've read this post. So if what I say here sounds a bit familiar, good, because I was thinking of her post too.
It rained again last night, a wonderful, long, heavy North-Carolina-in-spring rain. A couple of weeks ago I wrote in my journal about how we could get a hurricane, traumatic but essentially fixing the drought all at once. Or, we could get one tiny drizzle after another, agonizing but fixing the drought eventually -- but that it didn't matter, because God would provide either way. Well, considering the series of good, heavy rains we've gotten recently, I think it's safe to say that God provides rain in exactly the right way and time, and it's better than we ever expect.
That one I'll let you guys "liken unto ourselves" on your own.
....Okay, so it's not a pun, but I couldn't resist.
Q: What's the difference between a bad golfer and a bad skydiver?
A: A bad golfer says, "Whack! Dang." A bad skydiver says, "Dang! Whack."
Go ahead! Go on! Crack up! You know you want to laugh! It's dang funny!
It's going to be a good day today. I can tell.
Thursday, March 13, 2008
I worked on an e-mail at work for maybe 20 minutes, making sure it was clear and complete and not totally boring because, hey, there was a story to tell. And it was a beautiful little e-mail! The unfortuntate thing is that in a workplace environment, if it's longer than 2 sentences and from anyone under the level of president, no one really cares. I could just see it -- the annoyed expressions, the impatient skimming. It may be art, but if no one wants to read it, it doesn't really fill its purpose. I scrapped the whole thing and started over. Short, to the point, no fluff. Welcome to the business world, I guess. Sigh.
What's disgusting is that I work that hard, and in much the same way, with anything I write, including this post. Write it out, edit it as I go, go back and read it, change this, rearrange that, read it again, fix some more things. I want it to be perfect, but as a friend of mine likes to say about scrapbooking, "perfect is pretty but finished is BEAUTIFUL!"
That's why I'm letting myself write things that I don't yet like on Cindy's story. It's not nearly as satisfying as having something beautiful that I think will make it to the final draft, but it does mean the story is out there, the structure is established. It can always be polished later. (And oh, believe me, it will be.)
I can't help but think there's a larger metaphor at work here...that sometimes we have to get out there, make whatever effort we can manage in this moment, and let God ("the author and finisher of our faith") do the editing. Perfect is impossible, but finished truly is beautiful, if we have the patience and humility to gratefully accept His refining. When my heart is breaking because I've worked for so long on something and it just isn't working, sometimes I need to start over. Short, to the point, no fluff: God comes first. Then I can fill my purpose, and find effective ways to both feel and communicate His love.
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
A short guide to happy
1. Choose to be happy
2. Stay busy being useful
3. Cry when you need to, smile as often as you can
4. Do things to change for the better
So today, I started with #1 and a heartfelt prayer, expecting for this simply to be a "hard season," when happiness would just have to be deferred.
And yet here, now, in this moment, I am delighted by life. I love to talk to my dad, my sister comes to sit on my bed just because, my brother and I understand each other quite well and work as a team, I am connected to my mom in a way I am learning to really appreciate, Cindy loves me even though working full-time has rendered my life quite uneventful, I have a job in which I can be useful (that's #2 on the list!), Mahon doesn't mind reading my story, I'm WRITING and it's completely eating my brain.
As for #3 and #4, I have had not NEARLY such a hard time finding things to smile about this evening, and because I am seeking them out, I know that I can change things (especially myself, through Christ) for the better. I am once again trying to live moment-to-moment, grateful to God for all that He is and all that He gives. And, as I added at the end of the same journal entry as my list, "If it's not working out, it's because the Lord has something better in mind."
There aren't even words to express how personally our God loves us. He just is that way, and today I can see that. And I am amazed.
Sunday, March 9, 2008
Tuesday, March 4, 2008
It's AMAZING. Lots of blogs are pretty boring, pretty typical. Families, a few businesses (a few Mormons), that kind of thing. Others are neat cultural studies (http://www.mamlakty.com/) or make me drool with envy to see where other people travel. I'm amazed at the variety of languages you can find, Chinese and Arabic and Italian and Greek and Russian. There's also some slightly bizarre artwork out there, but a TON of stunning photography.
Why am I so fascinated by this?
Why are we, as humans, so fascinated by other humans?
Monday, March 3, 2008
I firmly believe that one can make an active choice to be joyful -- I'm living proof of this, after all. But I also think that it goes through cycles, like everything else. Sometimes, all it takes is making a conscious effort to steer away from apathy. Other times it takes your sister, a night drive, rock-out music, perfect spring weather, shopping, candy, a little patience, and being able to quit thinking about it for a while. Or something else entirely.
During one of the other times when I was in the low part of the cycle, with a similar problem (really, different facets of the same problem,) I decided that yes, it was going to be painful. But that didn't have to be the only thing I got out of it. I realized that God was offering me a situation in which I could learn to be one, more independent from other people, and two, more dependent on Him.
I think I'm there again.
In a recent conversation about parenting, I was told that one of the most important things you can teach your child is how to self-comfort. Babies want to be held and fed and all of that, and that's important, but sometimes it's better if they can say, cuddle up with their blanket. This carries on into adulthood -- warm baths, a fluffy book, a long drive. We learn all the time how to be independent of other people when we need to fill our emotional needs.
Well, I feel a little like a baby who wants mommy to hold them, and no one is coming. However, I am a functioning, healthy, God-loving and faith-filled adult; therefore, I am going to try to seek other ways to be comforted and be strong without relying on anyone but my Savior, and myself. I don't have to wait for anyone else to come and fill my needs.
When I got home tonight, I knew I did not -- almost could not -- stay in my house, in my room. So I didn't. True, I invited my sister along, but this was different to me because I wasn't relying on her to fill my needs -- I wasn't saying "mommy, fix it, I need held" -- I just wanted to know if she wanted to rock out and go shopping too. Which she did.
I think I sometimes forget just how capable I am of solving my own problems (with the aid of the Lord.) It's easy to think, "I've always relied on you and now I can't so now I'm going to wither up and die." Not so, Miss Sara. Things change, but I have the power to take the situation in my own hands and make the best of it. That doesn't mean making it a different situation -- but it does mean making something different of myself so that I fit the situation better. I guess if I've prayed often lately that the Lord will help me be changeable, adaptable, humble, and grateful, I shouldn't complain too much. I think being able to change, through the love of God, is the power of the Atonement.
And anything that helps me to understand that a little better is automatically worthwhile.
I don't think I'm adequately acknowledging the Lord's hand in my life.
Given quite a few of my last posts, this sounds a little crazy. I spend a great deal of time and energy saying "Wow, this is wonderful! Thank you, God! You're so nice to me!"
The thing is, I am neglecting to say, "Wow, this is really kind of miserable! Thank you, God! You love me more than you love my comfort and happiness!"
I can't just expect God to drop a solution into my lap when I strike on something that is truly difficult and makes me cry myself to sleep now and then. People deal with situations like that all the time, so it's not like I'm some kind of exception to this. What I need to do is acknowledge even the challenge as a way the Lord is made manifest in my life, and ride it out: humbly and gratefully, no matter how battered I'll become before the end.
And no matter how lonely and stressed I may feel sometimes, I need to seek joy with greater faith in my Savior, knowing that in the end, things will work out for the absolute best. 'Cause they will.
Saturday, March 1, 2008
"Man. This bites."
I've said it before and I'll say it again -- this is probably the happiest I have ever been in my life. I have been up to my neck in this quest to find deeper joy, greater happiness, more constant connection with God, and I can say, with deep gratitude, that YES, it is possible.
But it's also BLASTED HARD.
And God knows that. He knows that I am mortal, that no matter how hard I try to depend on Him, I will still need to mourn my own mortality. I am worn out and frustrated and probably just a bit angry that this whole being happy thing is so much work. But Heavenly Father understands that there is grief that comes with this earthly experience, and that my sin or even just my earthly limitations in general cause much of that grief.
I submit that it's healthy to mourn a bit. God trusts me to use the grief and broken-hearted-ness to be nearer to Him still. So that's what I'm going to try to do, with all of the humility and gratitude that I can muster. Which I suspect will be a lot more after I actually get some sleep.