Sunday, January 1, 2017

2016:: my heart.

Ah, the classic summing up of 2016 blog post. How quaint and cliche! I know, I know. I actually try to stay away from these in order to avoid the assumption that I have some sort of new take on life that will restructure the year and all the bad (and good) that occurred within it. This year in particular brought with it a lot of "realizations" that feel more like common sense than life changing truth, and in my pride I want to keep myself from blogging until I have something new and profound to say. But ironically, one of the things I learned this year was that sometimes I don't need new truth, I need to be reminded of the old ones. I need to be reminded that I am chosen, I am free, I am worth wanting. That I have already been made a new creation in God's grace, and even though I act out of my sin nature still (because the old me is all I know), that God continually, patiently, daily introduces me to and reminds me of the new Bethany that I am now. And as I walk in deeper understanding of God and the gospel, I walk into a new and deeper understanding of myself and how I bear Christ's image. And it is such incredible grace. "Novem te, novem me."

So without further ado, here are the things that the beautiful, chaotic mess of 2016 taught me::

Never apologize for loving people. My heart is always worried about making people uncomfortable. About whether or not this compliment, or that hug will make others think I'm weird or too much to deal with. Finally, I realized that if I spend all my time trying to predict how other people want me to act, I never get around to actually being me. And I realized that you never have any idea how you fit into someone's story, but as I walk in and out of the pages of peoples' lives I want my time there to be good. So speak truth, friends. Ask questions with the intention of caring about the answer. Give hugs. Write letters. Even when you're concerned it might be risky. You could be part of dispelling darkness and lies, and even when you don't know it, it's a beautiful thing to be a part of.

People give off starlight, especially when they're doing things they love. Watch them. THIS. I am surrounded by talented friends. They are intellectual, creative, artistic, have beautiful voices, can wax for hours on end about philosophical concepts, and put their hearts on paper in ways that continue to amaze me with every passing day. In those moments, they are alight with passion and promise and the unspoken realization that they are doing exactly what they were created to do. That kind of light is addicting, in the faith renewing, Christ glorifying, gospel type of way. And it has a crazy habit of making the people it touches rush to follow their passions too.

Everyone has a story. You don't need to know it, to respect it. I encounter image bearers daily. Some of them are kind and compassionate, and some of them are crabby, mean, and rough around the edges. They're the people who cut in front of me on the road that I scream at, and the family who shoves past me in the grocery store to take the last box of my favorite cereal. They infuriate me and make me want to scream and turn into a 5 year old and break things. And they remind me that I have absolutely no idea what's going on. At all. They're living a story I'm not a part of, and they could be having the worst day of their life. And even if I never see them again, for the 10 seconds that I operate within their world I can respect that their story matters, and not make it harder by shoving them back.

Jesus works in your life & doesn't seem to particularly care whether you want him to or not. Like, at all. I've tried everything. I've begged the Lord to change things, sulked because for some reason I thought THAT would change his mind, gone to church, stayed away from church, checked off my quiet time, told him I wanted His will done, told Him I never wanted to speak to Him again, and in the midst of all of it He continues to perform His quiet, consistent, loving renovation of my heart. It is painful and awful and horrible at times, but with each new sunrise He pulls me closer to who I am meant to be, and deeper into His love. And I've learned it's easier to just go along with it, and stop fighting. The ocean does not stop rolling just because I have planted my feet in the sand.

The things you get excited about, that light your heart up, are connected to your passions. They matter. No matter how small. I got into an argument with my best friend the other day because he said the phrase "well, what gets me excited doesn't really matter. It's things like video games and talking about book characters and analyzing big concepts that tie us together." And then he looked at me like he hadn't just said "yeah, what makes my heart beat faster is actually the meta-narrative weaving throughout all of humanity that shows up in stories and helps us realize what it means to be human." And then I threw a pillow at his face. Those things, no matter how small, matter. They are important. Pay attention.

Drink coffee to be functional. Drink tea to be cozy. My favorite memory from the semester is a night that I spent curled up in a friend's dorm room, drinking tea, as he, I, and two of our other friends read books together under fairy lights and just listened to the night pass. Associate good memories with tangible things, and when life gets hard and bad memories take hold, run back to the things that remind you of good. Like cups of tea and cozy rooms. Yes, we should always run to Christ first. But sometimes grace and peace on a bad night means holding a warm cup of tea with both hands, smelling the caramel as it wafts out of the mug, and remembering that all this cozy means that the bad doesn't last forever.

Take pictures. Lots of them. Live in the moment. But take pictures that matter. It's more than views. It's trying to capture that feeling of sitting around a table with your best friends, and knowing that you are known and know them in return. Or the light in someone's eyes as they open a gift that's perfect. Or watch a sunset. It's hard to capture, but those pictures and memories are worth holding onto.

Life is hard. Don't make it harder. Be kind, to strangers and to friends. Offer hope. Let those who don't have any borrow some of yours. Be patient. Lend out books. Share joy. Hold your tongue, and stand up for those who are unable to do so themselves. Fight for the weak. Fight for the broken. And love hard.

My worst was never meant to be compared to peoples' best. I scroll through Instagram every day and more often than not think things like "I'll never be that pretty, or that creative, or that adventurous, or that successful, or that spiritual." Because I know myself and my faults and my sins and my failures too intimately to ever think I have my life together. But my failures were never meant to be compared to other peoples' successes. Everyone is living a story. Everyone fails. We just don't broadcast it. Give yourself grace to have highs and lows, and remember that everyone else does to. Even when that's not what pictures reflect.

Transparency about what hurts leads to community. Be careful. But be honest. The friends that stuck around and became family know my heart, in all its brokenness and shattered pieces. They coaxed me out of darkness. It's the moment of "oh, you feel that to?!" that C.S. Lewis talks about. But that can only happen when we're honest about what we're struggling with. I'm not saying broadcast your story to the world. I'm saying let people shine light into your dark spots. And watch how much glory happens when it does. Because usually when one person starts being honest, it catches like fire.

It's okay to not grow up. Okay. Do adulthood and jobs and school and graduation and maturity and all the other things. But don't lose sight of childlike wonder. Get excited about beautiful sunsets and new books and puppy butts. Laugh for no reason. Dance in your bedroom. Find the bright spots in every day.

Darkness is necessary for light. This. This is the lesson I have been running from, fighting, and writhing underneath for an entire year now. In order to find the light, there has to be darkness. There has to be bad. There HAS to be. Because without those deep, dark, meaningless nights why on earth would I long for the sunrise? This year there has been an abundance of darkness, both in my life and on a global scale. And while it's been awful and horrible and I've hated it. But I have watched people step up and knit themselves together to form bonds in incredible ways. I have watched the world fight for the hurting, as my friends fight for me. I have grown attached, accustomed, in love with the sunrise because the sun just keeps rising, no matter how deep the night. And God's glory has been brilliant. It always is. But I see it most clearly at my darkest. And I become thankful for the bad parts, because they make me ache for the gospel. And I hate that. I wish everything could be ok and fun always. But that's not conducive to growth or becoming more Christ-like, because it's in the midst of the pains of growth that I realize God is moving. And sometimes I'm exactly where I'm meant to be (but think I'm not), and all of a sudden the light crests the hill and I realize the wilderness I thought I was walking through is actually the garden alight with morning dew. Christ's glory will always, always illuminate. But sometimes the bad has to happen first.

Welcome to the world, 2017. You have some big shoes to fill.