About Me

My photo
Just a twentysomething living my life and, as most my age, figuring it out as I go,

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Quintessence [The Secret Life of Being a Wallflower]

I've been thinking.

    I recently sat down and read Perks of Being a Wallflower. I had seen the movie but needed to really experience the story in book form, so one day between classes I went to the library and checked it out. Aside from a busy first couple days where I read a "chapter" or two at a time, I finished the book in a matter of a day. There are some books, movies, moments that just hang in your head even when its over. For me, Perks is one of those.
    The story focuses on Charlie, who is entering his first year of high school, writing letters to an unknown "friend". He confides in this anonymous person with the details of his life including the thoughts he doesn't know how to share with anyone else. In his letters, he discloses the relationships he builds and experiences he has as he finds a place in high school. Charlie forms a relationship with his English teacher, Bill, who sees his potential and begins to challenge him with reading more advanced books and writing essays. One day, Bill and Charlie are talking and Bill asks Charlie if he always thinks so much, to which Charlie replies "Is that a bad thing?" Bill goes on to say "Sometimes people use thought not to participate in life."
Soaking in these words, Charlie sets out to participate in the world around him. He meets Sam and Patrick, brother and sister upperclassmen, who quickly become his closest friends. The two take him into their friend group and invite him to live outside of his thoughts but appreciate his qualities of being a wallflower. Sam and Patrick teach Charlie how to be a friend to others, the ups and downs of dating, how to take risks in life and step outside of his comfort zone, and show him love that he has missed most of his life as a wallflower. At one point in the story, Charlie begins dating one of Sam and Patrick's friend, but doesn't actually like her. In his attempt to be nice, he keeps dating her even though he loves Sam. One night at a party, Charlie is dared to kiss the prettiest girl in the room and he chooses Sam. This causes a rift in the friend group, and Patrick advises Charlie to stay away for a while. So in a matter of minutes, he is back to being alone. He begins to spiral back into his anxiety, going through the motions of life and not really living. His thoughts become his friends, and he doesn't hear from Patrick or Sam for several weeks.

    Another story that has danced through my mind since I first saw it is the Secret Life of Walter Mitty. I've already written a blog or two about my love for the film, but with it coming out on DVD and its parallel to Perks, I can't help but talk about it yet again. Walter is a daydreamer, through and through. Part of the draw of the movie is the ability to connect with his character's ability to daydream outrageous visions for his life. My daydreams may not include having "Benjamin Button" syndrome, but I certainly find myself daydreaming about different situations in my life. I daydream about having conversations with people, life after college, marriage, travel...you name it, I've probably daydreamed about it. In the movie, Walter is trying to "wink" at a girl on this online dating site, but he has to fill in his profile of "been there", "done that", so he keeps getting phone calls from a guy who works for the site. Walter tells the guy he hasn't really been anywhere noteworthy. His adventures have all been in his head, he hasn't really been participating in life.
    At the beginning of his journey, Walter is in Greenland and is forced to make the choice of giving up on his mission or getting in a helicopter with an inebriated Greenlandic man. He is sitting in the bar, letting his opportunity slip away, when he daydreams that Sheryl-the girl of his dreams-showed up and started singing "Space Oddity" to him. In a moment, he makes the quick decision to jump onto the helicopter as it's lifting off the ground. This is the point Walter's life changed. He went from daydreaming his adventure to living it. And just like Charlie faced difficulties after deciding to participate, so does Walter. Only a few minutes after taking this leap into a life of adventure, he jumps into the freezing waters of the Atlantic and is circled by a shark (or so I've gathered, as I've had my eyes closed through this scene all 3 times I've watched).
    Fortunately, in both stories, the protagonist continues forward. Charlie's friends work everything out, he gets help for his anxiety, and life returns to normal. Walter pushes on in his mission, adventures through Iceland and Afghanistan, finds what he's looking for and wins the girl in true happily ever after fashion.

So, as I said, I've been thinking.
    And there's the problem. I have been thinking and not living. Not participating. My life has been a series of daydreams and "what-ifs", thoughts and wishes instead of opportunities and adventures. Don't get me wrong, I love my life! And I don't think I'm as extreme as either of these characters-that's why they are characters. But I have been sitting back and thinking about how I want things to be, how I want to be, what I want to do, what I want to see. And I haven't been planning and working on how to get there. I haven't sought out opportunities to pour into other people. I use movie nights as a less-than-fulfilling substitute for really, truly spending time with the people I'm surrounded with.
    In Walter Mitty, Walter is searching for a film negative that is "the quintessence of life". Though, I'm not sure if that's life with a capital L or not, that is the purpose for the whole movie. On the surface, it's the search for the "quintessence of Life" (as in the magazine). But for Walter, it is the search for the "quintessence of life" (as in general-living, breathing, seeing, feeling life).
    Now, with all of this thinking I've been doing, I would have to say the quintessence of life is this: to participate. To think, yes, but to live outside of those thoughts and make life happen, instead of just letting life happening to you.

Monday, April 21, 2014


I went cliff diving for the first time this year. There's a lake about an hour away from school that students frequent to spend sunny days on the shore, and more importantly, jump from the infamous cliffs. As a senior, we felt it our duty to finally check this adventure off our bucket list. So last semester, my 4 best friends and I packed up may car, drove to a camp site near the lake that we'd found online, arrived after dark to set up camp and make s'mores. It was fantastic! Quite the bonding experience figuring out, as 5 only slightly outdoorsy girls, how to set up our rented tent and start a fire. But we did it, and The Lord said "It is good." We slept only slightly off the sharp rocks for the night, doing the continual skootch back to the middle of the tent after sliding in our sleeping bags down the incline we'd pitched the tent on. And in the morning, as the sun peeked through the trees above us,
 we got up (for once, not only was I not the last one asleep but I actually got up before everyone else! Quite a victory if you know me well) and made pancakes using a skillet we had ingeniously thought ahead to pack, and some cardboard for the spatula we so ingeniously forgot to pack. After a healthy breakfast of chocolate chip pancakes, we packed up, figured out how to pay for our camp site, and headed to the lake!
As none of us had been before, we drove around slightly confused for a few minutes before finally seeing what we could only assume were THE cliffs! As we dropped our belongings onto a nearby picnic table, we excitedly took a picture with the lake as our backdrop and then headed to the edge. 
Crossing the threshold from gravel-y ground to rock-form made the impending feat amazingly realistic. Finally, after 4 years of hearing about cliff jumping, I was about to take on the task! We approached the edge, and suddenly every imaginable worst-case-scenario rushed through my mind.
"What if I trip and fall and go tumbling to my doom?" "What if I don't make it far enough out and crack my skull open, leaving my best friends staring down at my limp corpse?!" "What if I hit the water at the wrong angle and the water goes inside my body and makes my insides explode like the guy on 1000 Ways to Die?" And suddenly cliff jumping was not so appealing. I always used to think I had a fear of heights, like any respectable human, but I've come to realize the past couple years that I have a fear of falling. That moment when suddenly nothing is beneath you and you don't know if you'll ever know what it's like to have something beneath your feet again; no thank you. But here I was, and there was no way I could chicken out. I had to do this. Thousands of other students before me had jumped and survived. And so, after watching my more brave counterparts jump ahead of me, I focused on them in the water, stood at the edge of the cliff and pushed myself into the temporary nothingness. I felt like I was in the air for many minutes before I finally felt the cold water swallow me up, but as I kicked my way to the surface, I heard the cheers from my friends and I knew I did it! I leaped into uncertainty, trusting that my feet could propel me far enough away from the sharp cliff edge, fell through the nothingness for what felt like an eternity, and finally landed in the water near my friends, thus allowing me to become a true Harding student!

In 18 days, I will join with a few hundred other students in the Benson Auditorium. I will "close my Harding chapter", "complete my education", and "step into the real word". Yes, I'm nervous. Yes, I'm excited. But I am trusting that God will prepare my feet to move far enough from the sharp edge and that after falling a short time, He will swallow me up in a new chapter of life. I am facing one of the scariest, most thrilling cliffs of my life.
And here.



Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Midst of the Fire

We have started singing a song recently at church called "Cast My Cares" by Tim Timmons. The verse reads, 
"In the middle of the night
When worry finds me
In the middle of the fight
When strength is gone
In the middle of a fire
When fear is closing in
You are, You are my song
You're my hope, when hope is gone"

I love it! It gets stuck in my head quite frequently and I find myself unknowingly humming it or repeating the tune over and over in my head. It reminds me of those times of falling at the feet of God, exhausted and helpless, saying I don't even know what to ask because I can't find the words I am so tired, but knowing that in that exhaustion God is leading me through. The chorus goes on to say 
"I will cast my care on you, the Almighty.
I will cast my cares on you cause you're good.
I will cast my cares on you cause you love me..."
And there is the hope. I am not, but I know I Am! I am weak and fragile, but I can take all of those burdens and set them on the shoulders of my God. Praise!
Tonight at my Wednesday night devotional, we read Lamentations 3 and talked about the hopeless exhaustion that comes with this life but that through it all, God is sovereign and He is present. 

Lamentations 3:7-9, 21-23 says, 
"He has walled me in so I cannot escape; he has weighed me down with chains. Even when I call out or cry for help, he shuts out my prayer. He has barred my way with blocks of stone; he has made my paths crooked. 
Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord ’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness."

What a blessing to know that no matter what we go through (if you read the whole chapter, it talks about chewing gravel and being pierced by arrows and being mangled by animals and some other really unpleasant things) we will not be overtaken or consumed by them because we have God! And God is so faithful! He is strong. He loves us.

This morning, an old friend spoke in my Bible class, sharing what God has taught him during his time as a youth minister. One point that really stood out to me as he talked was about taking opportunities. As he shared a bit about his experience, he commented on how we tend to wait for our struggles to be tied up neatly before we share them with others, but too often we miss out on the opportunity to minister in those times when we are actually going through the fire. He said that he decided to share with his teens what he has been going through because "in the end, I believe I will come out faithful." And all day, those words have echoed in my ears. To look at a situation where you feel far from God, and know that you can accept your struggles and sin and hurt because, in the end, faith overcomes. 
Zechariah 13:9-
"This third I will put into the fire; I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on my name and I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are my people,’ and they will say, ‘The Lord is our God.’"
Sometimes, we have to be put straight into the fire, refined like silver to the point of changing states, and then molded back into what we are intended to be.

I have to confess that I had started this blog earlier today, with the intent of sharing the fire I am going through. With the hope that inviting others into my mess-and encouraging others to let those around them into their own messes. Yet, as I wrote, the words seemed stuck; stifled. They seemed hollow and choppy, like I was forcing the post. So I threw it out. It went against the mission of my blog-to share things that would be beneficial to others, and not just things that I wanted to talk about. 
However, I think that God wanted me to share this idea of being in the midst of the fire. He kept nudging me throughout the day, so here I press on with new intent. And while I feel I am going through the fire in some fashion, my words are not what needed to be written. I pray that this can be a call to hope for those of you going through a fire of your own, no matter how big or small it may be. To know that whatever you are going through, God will come out victorious-with you right beside Him!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Namaste! ::[And What You Can Learn From Others]::

Warning: Content below may be more liberal than it appears. 

Don't say you haven't been warned.

This weekend, I went on the coveted Living World Religions trip that takes place each semester. We spent 3 days in DFW, taking our learning from classroom to experience. Let me tell you, it was incredible! Aside from the fact that field trips are just fun anyway, I learn so much more from directly experiencing something. 
During the weekend we went to a Hindu Temple, a Theravada Buddhist temple, a Muslim Mosque, a Sikh Temple, a Jewish Synagogue, a Baha'i Center, and a Soka Gakai Buddhist Temple. Talk about a whirlwind of knowledge. I wish I could post everything I saw, processed, thought, felt, talked about, etc. but that would be pages-and I don't even know if I can put it into words justly. 

But there is one particular experience--well, one word really, that has played through my mind the past few days.
If you've ever done yoga, you've probably heard and said this word. 
Our first stop of the trip, Friday morning, was to a Hindu Temple. A beautiful Indian couple met us and spent a few hours explaining the basic beliefs of Hinduism. I could have spent the rest of the day there, listening and asking questions and looking at everything, and still not feel confidently enough to claim that I KNOW Hinduism. I don't seek to explain it here either, but I would love to tell you what I learned if you'd ask me! 
But the word "namaste", the couple explained, means "I bow to the divinity within you". I honor that "Brahman" is within you. Brahman is the Creator god in Hinduism. Something I misunderstood in Hinduism is that Brahman is the one god, and then there are different deities under it (like our Creator God, and then the deities of Jesus and the Holy Spirit). But they also believe that Brahman is in everything; that it is in the trees, the air, and us. So "namaste" is respecting the part of Brahman that is in them. And that word and phrase have resounded through my mind since Friday morning.
One of my biggest take-aways from the weekend was seeing how we can learn truths from other religions that are also present in our own. Every opportunity is a chance to learn and grow.

So what if we, as Christians, learned from "namaste"? What if we approached the rest of our brothers and sisters in this world and bowed to the part of God that is in all of his creation? I don't know about you, but I think God's fingerprint is in every part of creation, kind of like Brahman in Hinduism. I'm certain those implications are different in Hinduism than in Christianity. But I fully believe we can learn from different religions and grow in our faith because of it.
So just imagine if we acknowledged that God is living inside of your brother, or inside of your roommate, or your spouse, or that waiter at your favorite restaurant, or the scantily-clad woman you passed in downtown. Would you approach them differently? Would your thoughts go immediately to judgement, or would they go to love? Wouldn't it be much easier to go talk to a stranger who looks different than you if you thought about how you both had God within you? That's something that I really need to take to heart.
Hebrews 13:2 tells us to show love to strangers because in doing so, we could have shown love to an angel without even knowing (paraphrase). And Matthew 15:40, Jesus says "whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me." So greeting someone with "namaste", maybe we will be more willing to see the beauty and value in a person who, by our worldly perceptions, is not seen as valuable.
Not only does this idea of bowing to the divinity within a person change how you view them, but when you bow, you lower yourself and show humility in approaching someone else. I was reading this blog earlier today about the meaning of Namaskar (the act associated with Namaste) and it said that people look to the earth, humbling themselves, when they bow in Namaste. You humble yourself in the presence of God, so it only makes sense to humble yourselves to the aspect of himself in his creation. 
Let me say that again, we humble ourselves to the aspect of God in his creation. We do not worship the creation itself. That is one major difference I saw over and over this weekend, but that's not what this post is about. There's a major aspect in Namaskar that focuses on recognizing our oneness with those around us, being created by the same creator. Namaste acknowledges this idea that none are higher than anyone else. Bowing (humbling) ourselves to each other places every person on the same level. And therein lies the solution! When we recognize we are no more nor less than anyone else, we can show them the true, pure love of God that His greatest creation deserves.