Silence

I started working for my church in June. Back when I was working at another church, I always wished to work for this church. It honestly makes things so much easier. I can’t claim to know nearly everyone who attends this church, but I have a much better idea of who people are compared to the last job. I get to work with people I have looked up to in leadership and that has helped me feel more at home in the congregation. We even have a courtyard, which is pretty cool. Have I utilized it yet? No. But I will.

I also have the opportunity on very quiet, slow days to take a few minutes to just sit in silence and think. On most week days, the sanctuary is empty and eerily quiet, perfect for contemplation.

Last week, I was brooding over things  while working in the office. I had gone outside to get the mail, and wandered through the sanctuary on my way back to my office. I’m not entirely sure what led me to walk through the sanctuary, possibly the fact that earlier it was full of energetic children practicing for their upcoming musical.

I slowly wandered through the room, only lit by the sun streaming through the windows. It struck me how much different it can feel on a Wednesday afternoon than it does on a Sunday morning. There is a rush of activity and so many people in the sanctuary before the service begins. But on Wednesday afternoons, there is stillness and peace.

I almost felt as if I shouldn’t be in the sanctuary. But at the same time, a calmness swept over me. I sat down on a bench for a moment and then decided to lay down on my back.

When I was a child learning how to pray, I somehow picked up the habit of looking up to the ceiling or sky, depending on my surroundings. I know most people bow their heads. But as a child, I pictured God living above us in the sky. So naturally I looked above when praying.

As I lay on that bench, I stared at the white ceiling above me. I don’t know what I even said to God; I think he said more to me than I said to him. I do remember the calmness and serenity washing over me.

My life can be so busy that I forget to take the time to listen. I am a good listener to my friends, but I don’t always listen so well to the spirit. The spirit isn’t tangibly in front of me so it’s easy to forget about it. But taking even just those five minutes in the day to listen, nudged me to want that more.

Our world is constantly yelling at us. But in the sanctuary, there was none of that.

I realize not everyone can retreat into a silent sanctuary and just be still and silent. But taking just five minutes can drastically improve mental health. I hope to build those five minutes into much longer periods of silence and listening.

Just not at work, of course. ;)

Unending Grace

A few weeks ago things seemed very bleak as I processed possibly losing my grandmother. Her prognosis looked rather dim and there was a chance she wouldn’t be with us much longer.

She had surgery a little over two weeks ago to remove tumors from her bladder. However, when the surgeon reported back to our family afterward, he was happy to say he couldn’t find any. He took a few samples to make certain and those tests came back saying there is no cancer. They think her stubborn UTI was showing up as a mass on the scans, or it was simply a miracle. There’s still possibly a mass hiding behind her kidney, but that will be addressed later.

But for now, Grandma is doing great. Her energy has returned and this week she and my grandpa are taking a trip back to Minnesota to visit friends and family.

I think this whole process has really nailed down the idea of grace for me yet again. I struggle so much with grace. I can never quite grasp the fact that even though I don’t deserve grace, God still pours it out. I was in no place to even begin to think of losing my grandmother. Now we have been given the grace of more time.

I also experienced grace a lot this past semester. There was one particular day when I had two substantial papers due. It was any student’s nightmare. Especially an English major who is so good at procrastinating. I managed to finish one, and almost finish the other one, which I knew was a draft as we were spending time editing papers in class that day. During my first class that day, our professor said she herself had an intense week and that we could hand in our papers the following week. I nearly broke down in tears, partly out of relief, but also frustration.  I considered skipping the one class, finish the paper, submit it a bit late, and miss the editing process. But I went to class anyway, and was one of the 10 students who showed up. The final copy was due the final week. Grace was again poured out as I had an entire week to polish both papers. I pulled off exceptional grades on both, which I really didn’t feel like I deserved. I know I didn’t put as much time into them as I should have and both professors remarked that they could tell I put a lot of thought into the papers. That is partly true. I definitely thought about them a lot, but that didn’t always translate into doing the actual writing.

I think God realizes how much I struggle with grace. He continually finds ways to lavish it on me. After one summer job fell through, I was asked to be interim administrate assistant at my church. I never really wanted to be a church secretary again after the last time, but this felt so right. I know the staff well, and in general the atmosphere is light and positive. I’m looking forward to my summer spent in the office. Grace yet again.

All these things are helping me to accept grace. One of my favorite hymns has been running through my head the past few weeks:

Marvelous, infinite, matchless grace,
Freely bestowed on all who believe!”

His grace never ends, it never runs out.

Goodbyes

I have been dreading writing about this again ever since my maternal grandma passed away nine years ago. Grandma had always been a bit frail as long as I could remember, and with congestive heart failure, I always knew it was only a matter of time until I had to say goodbye. I was upset, yet prepared, when she left us.

I was left with only my grandparents on my dad’s side, and at that point in time, they seemed invincible. They travelled all over the country, lived easily on their own, and even made a big move back to the East coast a few years ago. I was elated to finally spend time with them on a regular basis. We celebrated Grandma’s 90th birthday a year and a half ago, and Grandpa’s 95th just this past March. As long as I can remember, they both have been energetic and healthy.

But in the last few weeks, my grandma has been having health issues. Pain, nausea, and general discomfort. The doctors say cancer. No one can agree on exactly what it is, or how much time she may or may not have left.

Typically, my grandma is very talkative, but after an appointment last week, we sat at her kitchen table in silence. I think we both knew time was winding down, but how do you even acknowledge that?

I am not ready for this. How does one ever prepare to lose someone so close and dear to them?

As cliché as it sounds, all I can do is make the most of the time left. It could be a few months, or longer. There are still pies to bake, and scones to try, and if we’re really lucky, a trip to Chesapeake, Newport News, and Virginia Beach. I suppose only time will tell at what memories are left to be made.

Memories… let them fill your mind, warm your heart, and lead you through.”

 

 

Procrastination at its Finest

I have two papers due on Thursday so naturally I’m writing here instead. It seems to help to clear my head before I begin concentrating on academic matters.

A lot of things have been on my mind lately. Classes are nearly over, and next semester should be my last. Of course, God loves to throw curve balls, so it may not be. I’m starting to look at my options after I finish, and as usual, I’m overwhelmed. I was talking to my pastor about that on Sunday and he encouraged me to view those options as a positive. I know that in my head, but it’s still a lot to think about.

I want to do something that fulfills me. I don’t need to make a lot of money. I want enough to be comfortable, as well as afford to travel. Other than that, I just want to work in a job that brings life to me as well as others.

I recently took the Myers-Briggs test again. I tested as an ISFP. Having identified as an ENFJ since high school, this was a bit shocking. I took the test another 3 times to be sure. ISFP every time. So I took it on another site. Still ISFP. I need to do some research into this and think about if this actually matters in my daily life. I do think the Myers-Briggs assessment offers some good insights into personality types, but I don’t think it should necessarily define a person and keep them in a box.

I recently invested in a Fitbit fitness tracker. I have to admit, I was a bit cynical about the device when they first arrived on the scene. But lately I have become more aware that leading a sedentary lifestyle is harmful, especially to future me. I’m planning on writing more about how my habits have changed in the last few weeks, but I want to give it some more time to really track my progress. I will say I have become much more active in little ways daily and I do feel much better, physically and emotionally.

I’m looking forward to this semester ending and getting to travel again. I’m planing on finally visiting Virginia again, specifically the area that my dad’s family is from. My grandmother’s family arrived in Mt. Pleasant (a neighborhood of Chesapeake, VA) in the early 1900’s and were leaders in a church there. I’m excited to also visit Newport News and see the home my grandfather helped his father build when he was a teen. I can see the places where my mom’s family has lived, worked, etc, very easily, so I’m looking forward to the family history in Virginia. Other trips include Pittsburgh, Baltimore, and Philadelphia. I’m also considering another trip to California in celebration of my 30th birthday. Hopefully that’ll cushion the blow of turning 30. The other week I was asked if I was still in the youth group at church, so at least I still look young.

After seeing the new Beauty and the Beast movie, I have been steadily listening to the soundtrack. It’s a perfect accompaniment to writing papers.

Which, speaking of papers, is exactly what I should go focus on.

Overanalyzing and English

Overanalyzing has always been my curse. I’ve always looked for deeper meanings behind conversions, events, and interactions. I struggle with not taking things at face value. Someone says one thing, and I spiral into an inner dialogue about what was meant behind it, how it was said, and why it was said.

It’s so frustrating to live this way.

I always wondered why my brain operates this way, but I never got a clear reason.

However, I might have gotten a clue the other day in my one English class. My professor is one I had a few years ago and we didn’t jive too well back then. However, this semester she is becoming one of my favorite professors, along with a few others.

We had just wrapped up Ulysses (well, most of it, anyway) and we were discussing our final thoughts on the book. James Joyce was so innovative (and frustrating, if I’m being honest) who saw and wrote about the world very differently than anyone before him.

As most of us were complaining about him, our professor asked an interesting question.

Do you think because you are English majors, you view and experience the world differently?”

At first I wasn’t entirely sure what she meant. But then a classmate brought up how she constantly feels a few steps behind everyone because she’s trying to figure out what a certain conversation or event meant.

Well, that sure sounded and felt like me.

It never occurred to me to connect my overanalyzing to my aptitude in English.

As an English major, I am taught to search out deeper meanings in literature as well as in any form of communication. I assumed that I just picked up that skill easily and that was what led me to pursue English. But perhaps my tendency of overanalyzing is why I relate so deeply with the study of English.

I certainly have my gripes with teachers pushing students too hard to find deeper meanings in something simple, such as why curtains are a certain color. There isn’t always a deeper, hidden meaning and it can be very frustrating to put so much time into that. But frequently there is a lesson to be learned that isn’t spelled out in black and white. You have to look for it. You engage with the author and enter their world.

Literature exists to teach us about life but it is also meant to be enjoyed. 

I think that’s what I need to remember. Sometimes I need to be searching for deeper meanings and lessons in life, but other times I just need to enjoy life as it is.

Winter is like…

that really long, annoying song that plays over and over and no one turns it off.

Winter is like that family reunion you really don’t want to go to.

Winter is being stuck in a traffic jam with no hope of moving for six hours.

Winter is like listening to President Trump speak.

Winter is forgetting your cup of hot tea on the counter and coming back to it cold.

Winter is like burning cookies.

Winter is like missing your connecting flight.

Winter is like getting to your favorite coffee shop right as it closes for the night.

Winter feels like getting stuck in a conversation you want no part in.

Winter is like reading a 45 page legal contract.

Winter is like getting in the express checkout lane and having someone with 27 items in their cart in front of you.

Winter feels like Netflix trying to load after losing connection.

Winter is like driving through fog praying for a glimpse of the sun.

Winter is like trying to write in the middle of terrible writer’s block.

But spring is like…

The 110% Girl

It’s hard being the girl who is 110%. The girl who would move heaven and earth and anything in between to make her friends happy. The girl who chases after friendships and pours her all into them. The girl who does all of this and doesn’t ask for anything in return. She’s a bit proud of her loyalty. When she befriends someone, she intends to keep them as a friend for life, or for as long as possible.

But it takes a toll on her. She puts on a smile when someone bails and says “It’s okay, I get it,” but late at night, the tears come hard and fast, and she wonders why she isn’t enough. When people just walk out of her life with no followup, no “hey, it’s been awhile,” no explanation; she struggles to feel like she’s enough. When all she gets is a “maybe next time,” she knows that it means never and maybe she should just give up.

I know exactly how she feels because I too am that 110% girl.

It’s hard to talk or write about this because it feels like I’m complaining. I hear myself voice these feelings and I feel ashamed. I have really great friends in my life who have supported me. I have friends who I don’t see that often, but we can pick up right where we left off. For that I am grateful. These people remind me I am enough.

But on the days when I reach out to a few people who have disappeared from my life and I get the feeling they’re okay with things staying that way, those are the hard days. Because I find it so hard to let people drift out of my life, I have a really hard time when people so easily let me slip out of theirs.

But I also don’t want to be intrusive. I don’t want to be the friend who forces others to spend time with someone they don’t want to. I don’t want to always be the first to text someone or initiate plans. I don’t want to chase people. It’s exhausting.

It’s exhausting because sometimes I wonder if I stop chasing people, will I lose them? If I stop initiating, will they just assume I don’t care anymore? I’m afraid that if I don’t reach out, I’ll realize that this friendship was one sided and the reason they even did things with me was because I asked and they didn’t want to hurt me by saying no. I don’t really want to find that out, to be honest.

But what I (and others) need to remember is that my worth is not dependent on what others do or how they react. And because I give 110%, people in my life know my loyalty and care for them as people. I can live with that comfort, and remember that on days when giving 110% is especially hard

Look, you love harder than anyone I know. It’s tough to match.”

– Ann Perkins, Parks and Recreation

Some of us love harder than others. Because sometimes, people need that constant reminder that they’re valued. And if I am the one to remind them of that, then I will continue to channel my inner Leslie Knope and love hard.