Then I realize- I belong to something like that. And one of the reasons that I love this song is because it reminds me.
So my blog title is taken from last stanza-
It hasn’t been a year of writing.
"To think that this is my twentieth birthday, and that I've left my teens behind me forever," said Anne, who was curled up on the hearth-rug with Rusty in her lap, to Aunt Jamesina who was reading in her pet chair. They were alone in the living room. Stella and Priscilla had gone to a committee meeting and Phil was upstairs adorning herself for a party.
"I suppose you feel kind of, sorry" said Aunt Jamesina. "The teens are such a nice part of life. I'm glad I've never gone out of them myself."
Anne laughed. "You never will, Aunty. You'll be eighteen when you should be a hundred. Yes, I'm sorry, and a little dissatisfied as well. Miss Stacy told me long ago that by the time I was twenty my character would be formed, for good or evil. I don't feel that it's what it should be. It's full of flaws."
"So's everybody's," said Aunt Jamesina cheerfully. "Mine's cracked in a hundred places. Your Miss Stacy likely meant that when you are twenty your character would have got its permanent bent in one direction or 'tother, and would go on developing in that line. Don't worry over it, Anne. Do your duty by God and your neighbor and yourself, and have a good time. That's my philosophy and it's always worked pretty well.”
-Anne of the Island by Lucy Maude Montgomery
I’ve been thinking about this lately, particularly since I myself turned twenty. Am I who I want to be? Who I feel I should be?
Sometimes there are moments when it hits me that in some small way I’m living a life I’ve dreamed about.
Maybe it’s when I’m practicing phonetics or signing up for classes with names like “Grammatical Analysis”, because when I was younger I used to read books by people like Michael Crichton and Ted Dekker and Madeleine L’Engle and see characters called very specific things like “paleobotanists” and “biochemists” and “marine biologists”, not because of their jobs but because of what they know, who they are. I’d dream of being that too, being an expert at something, being the sort of person that people would call in when they had a certain sort of problem. I didn’t think it would ever be possible, because I’m no scientist and while I was good at math it wasn’t something I wanted to make a career out of. So being sort of on my way to being a “linguist” gives me some deep inner satisfaction.
Or perhaps it’s when I’m in yoga pants with my hair pulled up, doing laundry at midnight and eating yogurt out of a coffee mug. Just because being that girl always seemed fun. It feels like college.
Maybe it’s when I’m scrunching the curly hair I wished I had for years before I started perming it, or when I’m learning to teach English and remembering all the people who ever came up to me after a VBS lesson or a study hall or a mission trip report-back and told me that I should be a teacher someday, or when I’m walking into chapel and remembering how much I wanted to come to Moody and how anxiously I awaited that acceptance letter.
But then I think about my prayer life, my devotional life, my inner thought life. And then I’m not always so sure that I’m who I want to be. I remember my junior year of high school, when I was so consistent in the Word and so ardently in love with my God. Then I was so convinced that I would never, ever give up reading my several chapters per day, because I was so utterly convinced that it was truly what sustained me. I understood how desperately I needed it, and I sincerely loved it. Where did that go? There was a time when I was starting to grasp what it really means to pray without ceasing, but somehow that understanding slipped through my fingers. I know there are mountains and valleys in everyone’s life, but—I understood. What happened?
So I thank Jesus for the process of sanctification, for His promise to be the same even when I fluctuate, for the assurance that my sin is cast far from me.
And I take heart in realizing that I do care about these things—that even if I am not that person, I still want to be.
Tonight I am studying in the library for the second time in my college career.
(Okay, well, right now I’m writing a blog post. But before and after this, I’m studying.)
As a result, I am also listening to music using earbuds for the first time in who knows how long.
Headphones used to be a staple of my school mornings, essential for drowning out the annoying and profane soundtrack provided by the kids on a public school bus ride. But now that I’m in college there are coffee shops with the radio on and laptops and my roommate’s awesome speakers that practically equip our dorm with surround sound. So I haven’t used my earbuds in forever.
I’d forgotten how much more intimate it is this way. How the music echoes in your mind and grates against your bones and hums through your blood and caresses your skin from the inside out.
It’s a totally different experience.
And maybe this is stretching it a bit, but it makes me think of the way I feel when it’s the first time in a long time that I’ve read the Bible for myself and on my own and not for school or during a sermon.
It’s more intimate. It becomes part of you. When you’re discovering it for yourself it steeps into the corners of your soul the way it simply can’t when all you’re doing is hearing it in the open air.
And when the Word of God is part of you, things change.
How do you respond to the evils of this world?
When corruption is everywhere, do you plug your ears and cover your eyes, sing a happy song and hide in the bubble where it’s safe?
When you’re tired or feeling ill or inadequate or anxious or sad, do you put on a cheerful mask and fake it till you feel it, or at least until you’re numb and good at pretending?
When Dad has cancer, do you try to stay in crisis mode forever, where you can run on adrenaline and just do what you have to? And focus on things like dishes and logistics and facts? But what happens when crisis mode inevitably ends and you realize that this is life now?
When a man just three years older than you is abruptly and coldly shot and killed just down the street, do you lock yourself in your dorm room and throw yourself into tasks to avoid the creeping fear? And what do you tell your mother?
When the world around you seems to be falling apart, and every time you turn around another friend or classmate has some new emergency or tragedy in their life, and yours seems so fragile… what do you do?
It seems to me that we can’t afford not to feel. Numbness scares me just as much as pain does.
Jesus said that in this world we will have troubles. But He also said that He will be with us, forever and ever. And He said that he is preparing a place for us… a place that will have no tears, no pain, no sorrow.
So for now- until we arrive in that blessed place- we must carry on, live boldly, be light and salt and hands and feet.
“Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both calamities and good things come? … But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. “ Lamentations 3:38, 21-23
It’s hard to be introspective, sometimes.
Sometimes my mind seems to overflow with thoughts and words and feelings and concepts. They swirl in an endless fog, a thick one full of little intensely colored sparks that zap my consciousness one after another before zooming away into the mist. Sensory overload combined with numbness. An odd and disconcerting thing.
That’s when I get behind on my journaling.
That’s when new blog posts don’t appear for two months.
Because that sort of mental environment makes me give up on trying to take a snapshot of any one thing and really look at it. Life is too complex; I get caught up in living the big picture and feel exhausted by the mere thought of taking the time and energy to contemplate the details.
But maybe that’s when I most need to take a snapshot.
To take a good hard look at one little facet of life.
To examine its intricacies.
To fully feel what it has to offer- the delight of its joys, and maybe the sharpness of its pain. Because pain can be refining. Because experiencing joy in life brings glory to the God who created it.
To understand. To gain perspective. To see the beauty in the chaos.
To not understand. To practice trusting the Lord.
To think. To think heavily.
Did you ever think about the fact that the word “ponder” carries with it the connotation of heaviness? I didn’t, until my choir conductor talked about it at the beginning of this year.
Ponderings are not light, airy, shallow, superficial. They are deep and real and profound. And I usually can’t feel entirely settled about anything that tugs at my mind until I’ve really thought through it- pondered it.
In choir, we talked about Psalm 101:2. It says, “I will ponder the ways of the blameless”.
The danger in the times I mentioned is this: if I don’t even want to think about my own ways, how much harder will it be to ponder the ways of God? To desire to ponder the ways of God?
Yeah. No tidy conclusion to this train of thought.
The Lord is good. Maybe I’ll just… really think about that for a minute.
One of the simplest lessons that I have learned in the past year is the importance of rest.
I’m good at pushing myself, at working hard. I’m also good at resting. But I’m not very good at balancing the two.
My tendancy is to go, and go, and keep going until I’ve reached some stopping place, at which point I collapse and indulge in doing absolutely nothing for as long as possible. Then I start all over. Usually the cycle is a month or two long, with anywhere from a weekend (after a finishing a paper) to two weeks (Christmas break) in between.
In a way, this way of living brings me satisfaction. I feel accomplished. But it also makes me bone-tired, a tired that accumulates throughout the year, because binge-resting does not really help.
What I need is consistancy.
I went on my first Women’s Concert Choir tours this year at Moody. During these tours, my director persevered in ensuring that we all had a certain amount of time each day that was designated as “quiet time”, not only to conserve our voices but to reenergize and focus us.
Since then, I’ve discovered that a little “me time” set aside each day does wonders for my energy, motivation, and emotional stability. It must be separate from my God time (which is, of course, even more essential), and it is not nap time.
Instead, I might read a book, crochet a little, or watch an episode of Psych. I do something I enjoy, something that takes my mind off of whatever is stressing me, something that is not essential. I do it alone. I do it consistantly, regardless of how much work remains to be done that day, because the time is moderated—no more than an hour—and when I am not so frazzled the procrastination dwindles.
I still work hard. But I have learned to pause occasionally, and be still.