The Time That Is Given Us

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One hundred and twenty-five. That’s how many days it’s been since my last post. I’ll spare the usual exclamations about how quickly time is flying by. (But seriously. How is it possible this year is close to halfway over?)

I only counted out the days because it feels like forever and I was curious as to how long forever really is. How do you measure the moments that make a life?

The weeks that have gone by have felt mostly the same. I went to work five times a week, church two or sometimes three times, met homework deadlines (some by thin margins), and didn’t get nearly enough sleep. Thanks to my English coursework, I did more writing than I had in a long while, though it’s not visible on the blog.

Within that pattern, though, change broke through. In the midst of to-do lists and deadlines came defining moments. While I was busy submitting assignments and filing paperwork for five months, my life changed in a few defining moments.

According to dictionary.com, a defining moment is “a point at which the essential nature of a character or person is revealed or identified.”

In storytelling, defining moments are no accident. Characters are positioned, trips arranged and stages set long before the moment occurs. If you’re truly perceptive, sometimes you can guess what’s coming before it grandly arrives. My favorite scenarios, though, are when the author is masterful enough to completely surprise me. A common rule is that defining moments should be both inevitable and unexpected. When we look back, we should see how everything led to this point, but when it initially occurs, we should feel a bit stunned.

One of the early defining moments of The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien is when Frodo is bequeathed the One Ring from his uncle. At first glance, this doesn’t seem terribly significant. Eccentric old uncle Bilbo leaves all his possessions to his nephew and decides to become a hermit and an author. Suddenly inheriting a home in Bag End shouldn’t rearrange Frodo’s life too terribly; after all, it’s his uncle Bilbo setting off for the unknown. As anyone vaguely familiar with the Lord of the Rings can tell you, though, this moment means more for Frodo than for Bilbo.

Frodo goes from leading an ordinary, rather unadventurous life to taking on a quest with earthshaking repercussions. His calm existence is derailed by a single object… a defining moment. The consequences of this moment are drastic, leading to many other defining moments and later causing Frodo to say, “I wish it need not have happened in my time.” “So do I,” Gandalf replies. “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” (J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring) 

The time that is given us… whether that is a time of upheaval or unexciting activities.

Maybe it’s not a moment we want. Perhaps it’s one where we feel stuck and it seems like the opposite of a grand, defining moment. Maybe this instant hurts, and feels like it’s going to hurt until the end of time.

Perhaps this is a big moment and it’s terrifying. Maybe this is a decision we don’t want to make. Maybe this is a change we never asked to face.

No matter what is happening, this is the time that is given us. We don’t get to choose our own time. For better or worse, this moment is all we have to live in. This is where God has placed us. All we have to decide… Is what to do with the time that is given us.

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Dear Thirteen Year Old Me

dear thirteen year old me

Last week, I celebrated my last teenage birthday. Realizing I only have year left of being a teenager made me stop and think about the year I started being one. I remember wanting to avoid it, but at the same time savoring the new world of adolescence opening up to me.

Six years later, on the other side of teenage-hood, I’m very much different than when I first entered this territory. Yet underneath, I still see that thirteen year old. I still am that girl, in so many ways.

Looking back, there’s so much I wish I could tell my thirteen year old self. I wish I could take that eighth grade girl out for a hot fudge sundae and a heart to heart.

I haven’t perfected the art of time travel (yet), but some things still deserve to be said. This is what I would tell my thirteen year old self.


Dear Thirteen Year Old Me,

Being a teenager is scary, isn’t it? It means that you’re getting closer and closer to adulthood… Which seems even scarier. Right now, in eighth grade, you’re already stressing over figuring out college and a career. Please don’t. Those things will come soon enough, sooner than you’ve even factored into your plans. When the time is right, they’ll fall into place. Until then, enjoy your now. Celebrate every second of your life and don’t try to be a grown up too soon! Those moments tick by faster than you expect. Even though you feel stuck right now, and scared you’ll be that way forever, I promise you won’t be.

freely-10108You know those Scriptures you’ve read, about how God has a plan for you? Those words aren’t just pretty quotes. They are life, and they are truth. You have a future, outside of and in spite of all the details you’re trying so desperately to hold down.

You don’t have to figure everything out. You can’t figure it all out, and that’s perfectly okay. Do the best with what you have, where you are. Take the time to explore and try new things. Let yourself make mistakes. Messing up might be embarrassing or even painful, but the lessons you learn will outweigh all that. Finding yourself is a process of trial and error. And as far as I can tell, it’s one that lasts a long time- maybe even a lifetime.

You’re going to set out on ventures and realize they aren’t for you. You’re going to put your heart out there and have it come back broken. You’ll have days when you feel like you cannot do this, and you’d really like to run away. It’s okay. It’s life, and it’s not perfect. It wouldn’t be truly living otherwise. Embrace that mess, but more importantly, remember that you are not a messSure, you’ll have messy days and weeks, even months. But you are not defined by that.

You are not the incomplete math assignments, the fragile dreams, the missed devotions, the overslept mornings. You are not the image you criticize in the mirror, the acne you can’t get rid of, the skirt you can’t zip, the people who ignore you or the emotions that feel out of control. You are not the lies the world has told you or the ones you have told yourself.

You are smart, even if you have trouble focusing at times. In fact, you have trouble focusing because there’s so much going on in your brain. Your creativity is what causes you to dream big. Don’t ever stop.

Consistency will be a virtue you have to fight for. Even at nineteen, you’ll miss devotions some days. But God will not shut you out, even when you don’t make time for Him. His love is deeper and stronger than anything you’ve imagined. He will carry you when you can barely crawl to Him; He will understand the language of your tears and rejoice in your songs. You know those Narnia books you love so much? Aslan the Lion is still one of the best representations of Jesus’ character. He is not tame- you’ll never be able to box Him in- but He is good. So truly good. Hold onto that. His grace is about the great gift of salvation, but also about daily strength. It covers every flaw; it’s strongest when you’re weakest. There is nothing you must do to earn it, even though you try to do exactly that; there is no place it will not reach you. No day is too bad to be touched by it, and no situation is too insignificant. All of God’s grace is for all of your life.

freely-10019Speaking of grace, give yourself some. Stop standing in front of the mirror and focusing on everything you need to “fix.” You are beautiful. The family and friends who compliment you aren’t lying or just being nice. Don’t brush off what they tell you.

It isn’t vain to be confident. Insecurity is what’s trying to turn you vain, by pinning all of your attention to your appearance. Love your skin, red spots and all. Stop letting the number on the scale weigh your happiness. You wouldn’t believe it, but in six years, you’re going to weigh more than what you currently consider “too much”. And you’re going to be happy. So embrace what God has created you with now. Take care of yourself; be healthy, strong and confident. Live like you are beautiful, from the inside out- because you are. More importantly, live like you are loved, because more than anything, you are.

As you’re already discovering, there will be people who try to make you forget that. Not everyone will understand or even like you. Some of them won’t even bother to be polite. Be nice anyway. Pray for them. But don’t give them any space in your head. Their actions and opinions are on their shoulders. They have no bearing on you. I know it’s difficult, because you have a sensitive heart and wonder if you’ve done something to make them behave this way; if somehow, you deserve this. Keep that soft heart, but get rid of the idea that you’re to blame. Jesus dealt with more rejection and hate than any other person on the planet; none of us can be 100% popular in this world. Try not to take everything personally. A lot of the time, it actually isn’t personal, even if that’s the way it feels.

You’ve always been the shy girl, so you fret about making friends and being alone.
You don’t need to worry about that, though. Concert crowdLook at all the people in your life who already love you so dearly! Cherish them. Life’s meaning is love. As the years go on, you’ll meet many other incredible individuals. Some will stay only for a season; others will mean more than you ever expected. Both ways are part of this journey. Not everyone or everything is meant to last forever, even though goodbye is always hard. When you do find something lasting, don’t let fear keep you from giving the love you have to offer.

In fact, don’t let fear keep you from anything. It’s a daily lesson, but choose courage. Don’t let fear have the final say; that belongs to faith.

Don’t be afraid to grow up, dear girl. Yes, it’s scary. Even at nineteen, sometimes I’d like to just hide in a blanket fort. But if there’s one thing I wish I could tell you at thirteen, it’s simply this: It’s going to be okay; you’re going to be okay. Better than okay, even.

All my love,

Your nineteen year old self.

P.S. Mom told you most of this when you were thirteen, remember? You should have listened. 😉

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What would you tell yourself at 13 (or any specific age), if you could??

A Friend in Me: Book Review & Blog Tour

A Friend in Me bookHave you ever read a book and felt as if you were seated across from the author in a café, having a heart-to-heart chat over a steaming latte? That’s exactly the warm feeling A Friend in Me by Pamela Havey Lau gave me.

As noted on the cover, the book focuses on “How to be a Safe Haven for Other Women.” I expected it to speak primarily to older women on the subject of mentoring younger ones. Although I don’t fit that criterion- I’m the youngest in my church’s women’s ministry- the topic still interested me. I work with youth, especially the girls, so I was hoping some of the principles in this book could be applied to mentoring junior high and high school students, not just adult women. And if this book was a guide for older women to befriend younger ones, I wanted to see if I found the concepts relevant as a younger woman.

In these pages, I discovered so much more than I expected.

Pamela writes with deep sincerity and compassion. She offers gentle guidance, much-needed reminders, and a kind challenge to rethink some attitudes and assumptions. Although this book may have been intended more for women further ahead in life, I gleaned a great deal even as a college age girl. This book isn’t solely about mentoring; it’s really about how to be a true friend to the women around us.

Pam’s insights on being understanding, prayerful, and present are shared with such grace and wisdom. She isn’t afraid to tackle the tough issues, but even uncomfortable subjects are handled tastefully. True friendship is messy and awkward, and Pamela is fully aware of that. She doesn’t try to formulize or offer a quick fix. She acknowledges how broken we are, and then helps us see how Jesus calls us to share that brokenness and help one another become whole in Him.

This book presents friendship in a light I never considered. I love people but I’m an introvert through and through. I avoid depending on others, and have long held the mindset that Jesus is the only haven I need. Although He is the ultimate shelter, I neglected to see the refuge that can be found in friendships with other godly women. Reading this encouraged me to pursue deeper relationships, rather than refusing to be vulnerable and staying at a shallow level. My appreciation for the godly women who have invested in me from their experiences was renewed as I went through this book. It even inspired me to find someone to invest in, rather than making excuses and keeping to myself.

Pam also addresses some struggles I’ve faced on my own. Through her words, I felt healing and acceptance. As I turned each page, it was as if she was sitting on my sofa, listening to my heart and helping me to hear God’s. Each story she tells carries the powerful reminder You are not alone. I intend to read over this book again later with a highlighter to mark all the little nuggets of gold.

This would be a wonderful book to read with a friend or a women’s group. Even if you pour a cup of coffee for one, and read it by yourself like I did, you will feel friendship radiating through every word. This book offered me a haven at a time I needed it, and it’s one I’ll return to.

So brew a cup of coffee or tea and settle into your favorite arm chair with A Friend in Me. Whether you’re close to my age, or further ahead in life, I truly believe there is something in this book for every woman. After all, we all need friends in each other.

I received a free copy of this book from LitFuse Pub group in exchange for my honest review. This post is part of the blog tour for A Friend in Me. Be sure to check out the main page here for other reviews and more information and resources!

What I Learned in May & So Far in June

May-June Collage flipped

I should really stop waiting until the month is over to write these posts… Because every time I do, I inevitably put off the task until we’re halfway into the new month. Better late than never, though, right? (I can hear you saying But never late is better. And although it’s true, I frown upon that reply.)

Aside from learning (or relearning!) that these recaps shouldn’t be neglected until the last minute and beyond, here are a few other tidbits I picked up in May and the start of June.

  1. To Kill a Mockingbird really does deserve all its acclaim. I’m only a few chapters in, but already I love it. The characters, dialogue, setting… All are so rich and absorbing. I’m hoping for some time this weekend to finish  it. My only complaint is that I didn’t read Mockingbird sooner.
  2. The Loch Ness monster is an excellent writing prompt.
    No, really. I’ve had severe writer’s block for the past several months. Even simple assignments seem to take me forever. But a few nights ago, I got an email from the team at the Fangirl Initiative saying contributions for a group post were due that evening at 9 PM. (By the way, here’s the completed post.)
    nessieOriginally, I wasn’t a part of it, but since I had the night off and I was cleared to write about the Loch Ness monster, I decided to jump in. I can’t remember the last time I finished anything in under an hour, but once I started writing about Nessie, I finished in a flash. After that, I felt a chunk of my writer’s block crumble. I guess the way to get out of a writing rut is to simply write… Even if it’s about something random, and done in a rush.
  3. What I don’t write, I can’t process. When I get busy, I don’t pause to write; yet it’s precisely in the midst of the rush that I need to. Writing, especially journaling, clears my head and helps me understand my story. It gives me some perspective so I can notice God’s script unfolding. For the remainder of this month, I’m going to work towards more consistency in my journal entries, as well as my blog posts.
  4. It’s better to step out and make mistakes, than to hold back and accomplish nothing at all. Bravery begets bravery.
  5. A difference can be made, even in a mess. My last post was messy; I’m the first to admit it. Yet in that jumble, real people came alongside me. The comment section filled up with the kind words of reader and writer friends. Those comments had a theme to me: I’ve been there, too… you’re not alone, and it’s okay. What I shared wasn’t profound or even polished. The response made a difference for me, though, because it was humbling and encouraging all at once. To each of you who read that mess, and especially to those who left encouragement… Thank you. You’re a blessing, and you make a difference.
  6. Joy is a journey. It’s so much deeper than the bubbly emotion of happiness. Joy is clinging to Jesus, even when the world is crumbling; it’s having hope in the light, even when we’re plunged into darkness. Joy doesn’t mean living on a mountain; it means trusting God to sustain us and carry us from the valley. Most of all, joy is our strength.
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  7. It’s the small things that matter most. Sharing pizza with a friend; revisiting my favorite childhood playground; ice cream with a brownie; tickets for a long-anticipated movie; trips to the library. Life isn’t always about the big events. We do just as much living and memory-making in the little ones.
  8. Speaking of small things, it is impossible to cram more than three people into one photo booth. But it is kind of fun trying to prove otherwise.
  9. “It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” -e.e.cummings. As I mentioned at #4, though, courage only comes with action. Accepting God’s plan for my life and future is scary at times, especially since there’s a lot I don’t understand. Which leads me to my final point…
  10. God is doing a new thing. New things are scary and exhilarating all at once. I usually run from change, as if I can stumble back into the past or race through the discomfort of the present. In this season, though, when my nature wants to dig in my heels, question and/or cry, I’m choosing something different. I’m choosing to be excited. God gave me a promise, and confirmed those words to me: He is doing something new in my life. And I can’t wait to see what it is.
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What have you learned in these past weeks? What new things are taking place in your life? Should all go according to plan, there will be more new content here on the blog shortly… If you have a blog, drop me a link with your newest post, too! 🙂

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What I Learned in April

April

I’m beginning to wonder if I’ll ever feel ready to write one of these posts. Each one proves that another month has come to an end. Each time I sit down to type one, I feel like the calendar has played a trick on me. Because how in the world are we more than a third of the way through this year?! It’s really not possible, but here I am staring at the month of May. And here I am, wondering what I did with April… What did I learn?

Writing these monthly reflection posts helps me to pause and figure that out. I already covered the first portion of April, in a post earlier this month.

So here’s what I learned in the rest of April.

  • Independence isn’t everything. I think a lot of us take pride in being self-sufficient; that drive for independence even shaped an entire nation. For my own part, I can take this a little too far. While I’m good at working with a team to get a job done, I try to shoulder the entire burden when it comes to my own life. Shamefully, I haven’t even allowed myself to lean on God. I’ve clung instead to my independence; my stubborn, desperate need to be in control. Needing anyone has felt like a liability. It’s caused me to shy away from relationships; to keep a safe distance from being, heaven forbid, dependent. But you know something? Independence has a downside. Sometimes I can barely stand, let alone on my own. When God formed the first human life, He didn’t stop there. He made more life, and connected those lives to each other and to Him. We were never meant to exist in isolation… Not from each other, and surely not from Him.
  • Memories are complicated. The mind is amazing, and how our past is tucked away there fascinates me. It’s incredible how the slightest thing, be it a scent or a sound, can yank one of those memories from storage.
  • Emotions take a long time to heal. Even when they do, I don’t think they’re ever the same as before they were broken. I also think that’s okay. Life won’t ever be the same as before; it seems natural that I won’t be exactly as I was, either.
  • Everything cycles through seasons. Some seasons seem to stretch on and on; others speed by. Every season has a downside. Winter is too dark and cold; I’m allergic to spring; summer can be oppressively hot at times, and fall is another round of allergies. Yet they all have upsides, too. It depends where we look. Such are the seasons of life. No matter how long they last, they do eventually change, leaving us to face another new season, mixed with ups and downs. The trick is not to wish for what’s behind us, because eventually this will be behind us, too. (Most of this post is a list of reminders for me!)
  • I like metaphors a little too much at times. See above section about the seasons.
  • In the midst of my life changing, my writing life has changed too. I’ve developed different habits, some of which I’m going to need to reshape. As I shared in another post, I haven’t felt truly ready to write, because I haven’t had the energy for my story. Now I realize it’s not just about energy. Stories preserve pieces of us, especially when we are the ones telling those stories. Every time I open my document, I’m transported back several months. I see a different person in those pages, and I’m having trouble reconciling her with the girl I feel like now. It’s almost like trying to be a co-author, except I’m attempting to team up with my past self. I have a few solutions to try my hand at, even if they may seem like temporary setbacks.
  • Don’t despise small beginnings. Even mighty redwood trees sprout from tiny seeds, buried in dirt. My dreams, towering as I imagine them to be, are little more than sprouts right now. They’re still closer to the humble earth than the vast heavens. But they are growing. And so am I, even when it’s just a meager start.

Small Beginnings

And because I’ve been almost mainly serious on the blog for a while, here are a couple of random, fun things I also learned in April. 🙂

  • Loki and I could take over the world together. I know, we just talked about small beginnings. World domination doesn’t fit that description. But I found a random quiz, and apparently Loki is the villain I would work best with. I didn’t need a test to tell me that… Now I just need to figure out if I should be worried what this says about me.
  • Speaking of quizzes, I put one together for the Fangirl Initiative last week. It was to see “Which Avengers Man is Your True Love?” I didn’t expect such a response, but it became extremely popular! That was a pretty fantastic feeling, and I learned that I’m not the only one who likes quirky little quizzes! Though it’s possibly cheating to take my own quiz, I did and confirmed something. Captain America would be my match! It makes sense, given my love for vintage things… 😉Avengers Quiz
  • Wishes do come true! Ever since I first experienced the music of the Phantom of the Opera, I’ve wanted Josh Groban to sing it. Particularly the song, All I Ask of You. And this week it happened. Since his new album released, I’ve had that one track on loop. I make no apologies. If you haven’t heard it yet, listen to it and enjoy four angelic minutes. You’re welcome.

What did you take away from last month? If you write reflection posts like this, drop a link in the comments! Much as I enjoy sharing my learning, I like reading about yours even more. If you want to read some other Learning posts from April, take a look at the link-up on Chatting at the SkyAnd be sure to check out the rest of that inspiring blog- it’s one of my favorites.

May your May be marvelous!

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