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??

What I Learned in June (Part 2)

June CollageAnd just like that, it’s a week into July. By now, you know I’m shocked every time a new month rolls around. Seriously, I don’t know why I’m constantly stunned by time passing, but I am. I’ll try to spare the exclamations, though, and move right into recapping what I learned in June. Or at least, what I learned in the second part of June. (I discussed the first half in this post from a couple of weeks ago 🙂 )

  1. Instagram accounts featuring books are the best. Most of my feed these days is filled with books, so every time I scroll through it makes me happy. It also makes me want to buy books, which I never need more encouragement to do.
  2. Speaking of, book thrifting is a new extension of my addiction. I’ve always ordered used books from Amazon, but lately, I’ve been foraging through secondhand shops and used bookstores. It’s time consuming, but it’s also relaxing and rewarding. Nothing is more exciting than finding the exact copy I was looking for. True, I could order the book online, but discovering it beneath a stack of others is like unearthing a treasure.
  3. There are A LOT of options when laptop shopping. Most of which I don’t understand. I’ve already forgotten the specs of the one I ordered. But it’s lovely, and this is the first post I’m typing on it… I should probably go read the manual now.
  4. Chick flicks + popcorn + best friends = insanely late, memorable nights, filled with laughter and jokes that don’t make sense the next morning. I don’t realize how much I need moments like this until I’ve gone too long without them. When I do finally experience these times all over, I’m reminded how much better life is with friends.
  5. Starbucks Shaken Iced Tea Lemonade is my new favorite summer drink. I don’t know what made me choose it over a frappe one day, but it’s fantastic. I’m craving another.
  6. No matter how prepared you are to say goodbye, it’s impossible to be completely ready.
  7. I physically require time to be an introvert. Especially when I’m stressed, I need to recharge alone. Funnily enough, I make the least time for this when I’m stressed. It’s something I’m trying to be more conscious of this month.
  8. Writing muscles require exercise. In the last few months, I haven’t devoted nearly enough time to writing and I can feel atrophy setting into my ability. My goal for July is to get back into a writing workout routine.
  9. Sometimes the most spiritual thing is to sleep. There are too many nights I stay awake being anxious. In those times, I have to remind myself that I can “Go to sleep in peace; God is awake.” (quote, Victor Hugo)
  10. Keep not settling. I came across this quote on Pinterest, and it’s become my mantra. Life is too short to stay stuck. Even when it’s scary to step out, refuse to settle.

That’s all for Part 2 of June! What have you learned in the past few weeks? Have you set any goals for July? How is your summer going thus far?

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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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What I Learned in March, and in April So Far

March April

Hello, friends. How is your springtime coming along? Partly because of the indecisive weather, and partly because of everything else clouding my mind, I can hardly remember that it even is spring. But according to the calendar, near continual rain, and budding flowers, it’s spring whether I remember it or not.

The past several years, I haven’t been overly fond of spring. The temperature is too fickle, swinging from January to July; allergy triggers are at an all-time high; and bugs emerge in droves.

This year, though, spring speaks something else to me. It whispers a promise. After the snow and sleep of winter, life is springing out again. After a long stretch of darkness, day is breaking. This year, after one of the hardest and darkest seasons of my life, that promise means more to me. It feels realer… truer. Through the gloom, it gives me something to hold onto.

That promise is what’s helping me type these words. After a month away from blogging, I’m not sure if this is the right time to come back. But then I’m not sure there ever will be a right time, or if I’ll ever feel fully ready. So I’ve decided just to start again, much the same way I started the blog in the first place. I’m not quite sure how to get back into the swing of things, so I thought I would share some of what I’ve learned while I’ve been away.

Here is what I learned in March, and what I’ve learned so far in April.

  • There is a time for everything, and the time is not always now. If it’s meant to be, it will be, even if it might not be for a while.
  • Everything isn’t predictable. Sometimes what we expect to last forever comes to an end; sometimes the things we thought would end are the ones that endure. In the last eighteen or so months, my best opportunities and experiences have fallen from seemingly nowhere. The most predictable thing about my life lately is that it’s so unpredictable. There are multiple stories I could share on that score, but for now I’ll just say, I’m really just learning as I go. I think we all are.
  • There’s a tense balance between oversharing, hiding, and being honest. I tend to swing too far towards hiding. I once admitted to a friend, that I always try to have it together and when I can’t, I don’t know how to handle it. It’s partly why I needed this time off. I felt so exposed in all my emotions, that they flooded my screen every time I sat down to type. My fear is always to overshare, and I couldn’t find the right balance of honesty. I’m not sure I’ve found it yet, but I won’t be able to return to writing until I share something. So here’s to honesty- even in small doses.
  • Writing requires rawness. This is the real reason I’ve been coming up blank, other than in my journal. Last month, I was emotionally open but after the initial shock, I didn’t feel like sharing anymore. I closed off so I could heal some. I couldn’t write as I normally would, so I retreated inward. My journal is filled with the only words I could write, and the entries are long and disjointed. There isn’t a single sentence that I could turn into a blog post, and I haven’t touched my novel because storytelling requires all my emotional energy. Usually, I crave the opportunity to spill myself into the story, but for the past several weeks, I haven’t had the energy to spare.
  • Excuses are not inherently bad. Sometimes, there are reasonable, good ones. Sometimes, we need to be excused from certain things. As much as we’d like to stick to the philosophy of no-excuses, we aren’t machines. We can’t be put back together and pushed forward. It’s okay. It’s part of being human, and it’s not a weakness.
  • As much as we try to solve and fix problems, not all of them can be. There isn’t a clear solution for everything, even in the age of information. I can’t find all the answers through Google, and it isn’t always the right time for God to reveal those answers. Sometimes the answer is simply to wait. Wait and see.
  • Brokenness isn’t a bad thing. It’s unpredictable, and uncomfortable, and downright painful. But it’s not bad. Sometimes broken is right where I’m supposed to be.

The world is broken in too many pieces

But the brokenness is beautiful, it’s beautiful

My heart is broken by beauty’s mysteries

But the brokenness is beautiful, it’s beautiful

{Broken (Beautiful) by Chris Sligh}

What have you been learning this spring? Can you relate to any of the things I’ve learned?

With love,

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