I found this draft while cleaning up my tagging system. I enjoyed the trip down memory lane, and since the brotherly advice still holds true I decided to add an update for 2014 as well.
One of my brothers recently shared with me a piece of wisdom: “If at the end of the year you have done nothing to either make you laugh, cry, or both, then you have wasted a year.” This year is not quite over, but I thought it’s close enough to go ahead and spend a few moments in reflection.
2013 Cry-Worthy Events:
- My best friend moved half way across the nation
- Meeting the man I hoped to marry, only to have him decide it wasn’t reciprocal
- Getting hopelessly lost in Fort Worth and accidentally driving into an airplane factory
2013 Laugh-Worthy Events:
- Playing ridiculous games with my family
- Icemegeddon causing unintended dances on the stair-well
- Spending five minutes on the phone with my graduate school trying to explain that I am not a high school student, but am, in fact, enrolled in their grad program
Okay, now let’s try this for this more recent year!
2014 Cry-Worthy Events:
- Family drama
- More family drama? Outside of that it was a pretty good year…
2014 Laugh-Worthy Events:
- Watching my 7-year-old niece and several-month-old nephew roll around in the floor laughing and giggling for no reason
- Eating gourmet ice cream standing in the rain in downtown Dallas with the bestie
- Sitting in line forever to watch The Fault in Our Stars with mis amigas.
- Spontaneously attending a Stars game
I have found that even in the craziest of days, carving out a few moments to sit down and enjoy a nice cup of tea can make all the difference. There’s just something about sitting down with a cup of your favorite brew and blocking out the circus around you, even for a few small minutes, that can give you the strength and courage to get back up and face the rest of the day with grace.
John Green, arguably the best young adult author of our time, wrote in his most recent novel, The Fault in Our Stars, “My thoughts are stars I cannot fathom into constellations.” There are days when I read this quote and think, “Man, what a wonderful way with words John Green has! What incredible command of metaphor!” And then there are days like today.
Days where my thoughts weigh upon my mind but refuse to come together with form or substance. Days where I am overwhelmed with both the inherent brokenness of our world and everyone in it as well as the intense beauty life and the power of the smallest actions to affect a person’s life (and therefore the world). Days where life doesn’t go as planned, but which result in unexpected blessings. Days where both the fear of the future and the hope and expectancy of life to come war against each other. Days where the inner philosopher unsuccessfully attempts to wrest control of my thought processes.
Days where my thoughts, no matter how beautiful or insightful on their own, refuse to coalesce into something more.
This is why reading is important. It allows us to use the words of others to give voice to the indescribable things within us.
People who know me from only interacting with Work Me think I’m an optimist. Others have accused me of being a pessimist, others a cynic, and still others a realist.
None of those sit right with me, though. None of those fully encompass the way the world reveals itself to me. I see the potential for future disaster, but I don’t believe catastrophe is unavoidable. I see how those with power abuse those without, but I realize not all the powerful are cut from the same cloth. I see kindness in people, but I know that people are naturally bent to darkness instead of light. I see the state of the world around me, but I have hope that life can improve.
That’s what hopeful realism is all about: Recognizing that all is not well with life, but retaining a deep seated belief that the what comes next can be better than what went before.
Hopeful realism is not merely the naïve dreaming of a girl yet to experience life, but is rather the result of a life transformed by faith. Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Is that not the essence of hopeful realism? I am confident that when time runs out, the One who created time will still hold us in His hand. I am assured that even if I must suffer hardships, “he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved” (Matthew 24:13).
Sometimes I look at people who call themselves Christians and cannot help but think, “I want nothing to do with their ‘God.'”
I am proud to say that I was raised in a Christian household and that I am a follower of Jesus Christ, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I love God. But sometimes people’s actions make me doubt whether we serve the same God. Vicious, malicious, abusing people do horrible, hurtful things, and then turn around and talk about how great God is and how wonderful life is serving Him. Their lifestyles make their ‘God’ seem fake. My reaction to that is, “I want nothing to do with the God of that person.”
Then I look at other Christians and cannot help but want to know their God. People who live good lives, who go out of their way not to hurt others, who have a simple intimacy with God. These people live out their faith on a daily basis with no faking or pretense. They know God, and it is evident in everything they do. How can I not want to follow the God of people like this?
I recently sat down and had a long talk with God about this dichotomy. How can people who claim to follow the same God have such different expressions of Him? Surely the God of the first group cannot be the same as the God of the second?
I went on like this for a long time, not letting God get a word in edgewise. When I finally shut up long enough, I heard His quiet voice whisper to me: “Must I be the ‘God of this’ or the ‘God of that’? The pagans have their god of wind and god of love and god of war. But me? I AM. What else do you need Me to be? What else is there? I AM. I AM God, but My children reflect me with different levels of perfection. When you look at some, you see a clear picture of who I am, but when you look at others you still see much of the world obscuring My image. I am still cleaning My children, making them into a better reflection of Me.”
Instead of following the “God of this person” or the “God of that person,” I now simply choose to follow “I AM”: the God who is big enough to handle even my own poor reflection of Him.
During my freshman year in college my friends introduced me to the wonderful world that is the musical Wicked. Never has there been a set of songs that I connect with in so many different ways at so many different levels. The lines I keep coming back to over and over again, though, are from the song “For Good” (watch the clip here):
Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better?
But because I knew you, I have been changed for good.
No one who has paid any attention to human behavior will deny that a person’s friends directly affect the person. In fact, Solomon knew this way back in the 10th century BC when he said, “Become wise by walking with the wise; hang out with fools and watch your life fall to pieces” (Proverbs 13:20, The Message). Teenagers rail at their parents about how their friends are not bad influences on them, but there is wisdom to the parents’ opposition to “bad friends.” Parents want their children to have friends who will change them for the better. Ideally, we should want friends who will change us for the better, too.
Unfortunately, that’s not how it always works out. We don’t always get to choose our friends based on their potential impact on us. Sometimes we’re “stuck” with the friends who are willing to accept us. The less mainstream a person is, the less ability a person has to choose his/her friends.
My friends my freshman year of college were all the “outcast” type people. We all never really had a bunch of friends growing up, but we managed to find each other in college and form a tight group of friends. We all had our baggage we brought with us to the friendships; some might say we had more baggage than the average person. Everyone’s baggage kept bumping up against everyone else’s, and at some point some people’s bags got swapped. We learned new bad habits from each other. My friends did not necessarily change me for the better that year. But they did change me for good.
Through the mistakes we made I learned more about myself and how to be a good person than I ever possibly could have if I had different friends. My friends changed me, but then it was up to me to turn that change into either a positive or a negative. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that without those horrible, wonderful friends I would not be the person I am today. And I like who I am.