Icing.

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[I wrote most of this in May, and finished it . . . in July]

“Tell me something about yourself,” the traveling speaker asked, having gone down the row asking each person the same as they introduced themselves.

I paused. “I like to create things.”

“What sort of things?”

“Paintings, cakes, stories.  But I rarely finish my stories.”

“Do you finish your cakes?”

“Yes!” I laughed in response.

“Why do you finish your cakes and not your stories?”

The answer came sooner than is characteristic of this ponderer. “People eat my cakes. They don’t read my stories.”

In that moment, it somehow seemed like an epiphany, whose meaning was not yet clear. Then I forgot about it, until tonight.

Tonight I combed through my computer files, hoping to find a forgotten piece of writing that could be polished to some semblance of beauty. What I found were bits of fiction, journaling and poetry. They were written so long ago that it was if I was reading them for the first time as I had no recollection of them whatsoever. Some were quite dismal, some dramatic, but some surprised me by giving me hope that maybe it would be worthwhile to continue practicing my craft. There was one tale in particular that drew me in and made me feel as if I were suffering from some sort of author’s amnesia. The first page of this story was intriguing, and I waited with bated breath to see where it was going, scrolling down to page two. I yelped in indignation at my former self, for the scene ended abruptly.  I had left myself hanging in the midst of an unfinished story whose anticipated plot I couldn’t recall. By not finishing that story when the idea was fresh, I lost an opportunity I can’t get back. As I continued to peruse my files, this scenario repeated itself, sometimes with thoughts being left behind in mid-sentence. The only stories that were finished were the ones that had something in common with my cakes: stories I wrote with the anticipation of sharing them with specific people.

I’ve written this post thus far, and I’m tempted to give it up as I feel there is too much here that I can’t seem to convey, but I couldn’t handle the irony. What have I learned from this experience? I suppose learning something isn’t a requirement, but somehow with me everything turns out to be a lesson, and I took two main things from this. *First, I think I should find more merit in writing just to write for the joy of it, to work through thoughts and feelings with no thought of somehow gaining approval from others. Yet simultaneously, the motivation to excel, follow through and actually finish well is so much stronger  when you have the anticipation of sharing it with another. To have someone urging you onward is something we should all have and participate in, regardless of whether it is in reference to making a cake, writing a story, or anything else that is good. God didn’t mean for us to take on life alone, something that I so often find myself attempting to do.

Second, I wonder what “stories” in life I am currently leaving unfinished. What am I not pursuing because I’m too scared, too lazy, or I feel too inadequate? What will I look back on later and see a beautiful beginning, only to watch it vanish into thin air because I gave up? What will I regret later that I could change now, wishing I could talk to my former self into pursuing? Those questions are not easily answered, but are worth pondering. Now, I’m not suggesting that everything started is worth finishing, and we need to be careful in discerning what is. However, I’ve found it to be an uncomfortable truth that the things that are really worthwhile in life and for eternity to come are the things that do not come easily. Forming healthy habits, meaningful relationships, serving others, sharing the gospel and even maturing are beautiful things that only come through a perseverance that throws aside laziness, awkwardness, fears, what-ifs, and a gaze upon one’s self that reveals more weakness than we care to see. Yet if we manage by God’s grace to persevere, to finish in those things He has led us into, we will be left with something ultimately more dear than whatever it was we gave up. So here’s to finishing well with the help of a community and strength from the Lord, whether it be cakes, stories, or things infinitely more important.

 

*Basically what we have from this point on is a loquacious pep talk directed to myself. These things are so easily forgotten, and I need to be reminded often!

Published in: on July 18, 2016 at 12:36 pm  Comments (2)  

Wandering to Work: My First Week

DSCF8461-001The sun has not quite set on my first week working in the shop. I say not quite because the sun doesn’t begin to go sleep around here until about the time I do. Maybe even later.

I began the week praying against the fears that were beginning to rise up and ask me what I had gotten myself into, for I really had no idea. The day dawned that I would find out and I managed to leave those pesky fears at my door and set off into Aberdeen to begin my twenty minute walk to work. “Wander” might be a better word than “walk” to describe what I did that first day, for “walk” seems to include too much of a sense of direction. I soon abandoned my screen shots of Google’s directions and looked to the old standby for help: a good “old fashioned” paper map. I subtly attempted to mask the fact I was lost from the locals (who were too concerned with getting to work to notice anyway), and located what seemed to be the best route. Eventually I managed to make it through the roundabout without getting smushed, accomplished by religiously waiting on the “walk” signs as I did not yet trust my own judgement about which way the cars might be coming. More recently however, I sometimes dash in rebellion of the walk sign,  looking to the locals for direction as I assume they value their lives and will cross accordingly. I digress. Somehow I managed to arrive on time.

The shop was larger than I expected, with the cafe in the back making up a sizable portion of it. The cafe is a nice addition, serving up Britain’s classic breakfasts, as well as scones with jam and other items such as paninis and tatties for lunch. I can’t forget  to mention the tea and coffees of course, or the tasty looking traybakes (I plan to begin running again tomorrow)! My manager, a co-worker and I sat down there to begin the day with prayer, soon followed by a fresh cup of coffee. Can’t think of a better way to begin.

My first day included time spent becoming familiar with the product. Translation? I spent time browsing through the books. If you know me at all, you realize that this means I was feeling fairly blissful. Since I’ve been in I’ve learned to use the till (and to not tell people their change is “sixty-seven cents,” or many chuckles will follow) set up some displays, price items, and been directed to alphabetize the books. I’m not sure I’ve accomplished enough yet to say I’ve really worked. Yet what little I’ve done really doesn’t feel like work because (embarrassingly enough) things such as alphabetizing books is something I’ve found myself doing at stores before; stores which do not employ me. I know.

Though I have much still to learn, I feel like I’m getting on well enough at the minute. My co-workers are very kind and patient, and my manager serves as a living “Mental Floss,” giving me a daily dose of Scottish facts, phrases or history, which of course are well received. Additionally I love talking to the people who come in, and not simply because it means I get to listen to various accents all day. It was just today that I felt like I knew enough of the basics to be able to relax and just converse with people, and it felt good when I was able to help customers find what they wanted.. But more than that I see how this can be a ministry of encouragement. There are some very dear people who come into the shop and are obviously simply in need of a chat and a listening ear, which I am more than happy to supply. I had a lovely conversation today with a sweet lady about how God works in our lives, and how Christ is our ultimate example, even in suffering. She encouraged me by telling me how she came to know Christ later in life and now hopes to see her family do so as well (feel free to join me in a prayer for this). She bought some little cards with verses on them that she hopes to use to encourage others, while another lady bought a Bible to leave for a new flatmate if she was interested, and many people come in to find books to give to friends who desire to learn more. Sometimes people come in with their own questions, such as a fellow who popped in recently. He was definitely seeking to know about God, but also seemed to be seeking in some strange places as well, desiring to find his purpose in life so it seemed from what he said (feel free to pray for him as well!). All sorts come in, and I’m learning to look for ways to help and encourage others wherever they might be in life and whoever they might be. I’ve got a bit of distance to cover in this respect, as words don’t always come easily at times, but it will be a worthwhile practice I’m sure. With the realization that I’m no longer in the Bible belt and people have to go searching for something “Christian” if they want it, I saw how this shop can truly be used as an encouragement to the Church community and a resource for those who want to reach out to others. Because of all of the above and more, I’m feeling quite thankful to be here.

Published in: on June 4, 2016 at 5:10 pm  Leave a Comment  

Quiet & by Myself: Thoughts of the Jetlagged

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I’ve been here a total of two and a half days, and I had to pull up my calendar to tell you that much.

I’m still in a bit of a fog.

There are many things that I might consider as new or strange right now, but really the oddest bit for me is being so alone. I’m not as good at being alone as I used to be, for I actually have grown accustomed to people being around. The sweet thing about experiencing what seems to be a lull in life is that it has made me appreciate the people in my life even more, though every single one of them is far away at the moment. Additionally, church today and lunch after  were that much more appreciated.

Yet for the most part, I have been alone. My new flatmate is currently out of town for a bit. The flat is still, with no one to engage me in the conversation I am so accustomed to back at CIU. I wasn’t bothered at the thought of being alone at night, until my first night here. It was roughly ten-thirty, and I was in bed when I heard the lock on the front door begin to rattle and the door swing open. Whhhaatt? I made the obvious choice and I walked out to meet the would be intruder. In my half awake state I am either incredibly brave or incredibly senseless (in my defense it sounded as if they had a key, and intruders don’t usually carry keys. But still). Standing at the door, equally surprised was a kind looking woman, who soon proved to be a friend of the absent flatmate, come to stay the night. When I awoke the next day she was gone, and I was alone again.

It’s a strange feeling to wander about a city you know nothing about, without the internet or a phone to depend upon for help. As soon as I leave my flat, I am truly disconnected. This sense of freedom from being contacted or contacting anyone is both disconcerting and soothing; you just live and trust God will help you if you need it. That probably doesn’t sound odd to those of you who remember life before cell phones, but in today’s culture it feels very strange to be so out of sync with everyone in your world.

With all this time on my hands (I don’t start at the shop until Tuesday) I’ve been able to sit in the stillness and reassess some things. The last few weeks have been a whirlwind, and though they were great fun, I realized that at many points I’ve been a road-trip sort of diet, both physically and spiritually. Not eating for health but grabbing a bowl of cereal here, and a Psalm to snack on there. Here in this alone time before things grow busy (especially before school starts in August!) I have a chance to pursue the good things again. Let me tell you what you already know; when your lifestyle is unhealthy it’s not easy to change. It takes dedication to be able to overcome the whims of what you might desire at any given moment, whether it’s another shortbread biscuit or choosing another hour of a mind-numbing TV show because you don’t want to put forth the effort to think. For in addition to eating random things that I don’t need, I’ve developed a dreadful habit of entering the black hole of the internet for a few hours before bedtime, and for no particular or even enjoyable reason. I am always left feeling disgusted with myself, not only that I have stayed up later than intended, but also that I have whittled away hours that could have been used to write, for prayers, or to sleep.

This has shown me that sometimes being alone can be hard in unexpected ways. When you are left with yourself and nothing particular you must do, you are forced to access your choices. There is no one else to “blame” for distracting you from all those things you obviously would have done otherwise. Just you, and the truths realized on such occasions can be rough.

Yet, it’s not just you, which is something that must be taken into account. It’s tempting to fill alone time with noise, I’ve found. Yet how wonderful that the Lord is ever near to hear our prayers, ready to teach us if we will only allow the quiet to continue and let ourselves focus. It can be a battle, no doubt.  In my days wandering strange streets, my time spent reclining next to the window, or even sitting here in a dark flat typing I know that He is the only One who goes with me everywhere. Therefore in those times when He is the only Other present, I want to learn to give Him my full attention instead of ignoring my truest Companion.

Published in: on May 29, 2016 at 7:08 pm  Comments (6)  

Travel Advice & Summer Plans

I haven’t even left the airport and I already have a valuable piece of travel information to share. No matter how much it entices you with its delicious guacamole and relatively healthy ingredients, say no to the burrito so large that no average human should be able to fit it in their mouth. Please, make a far more sensible choice, such as something that comes with a plate and a fork! Why is this so important you ask?

If you want to be humbled and embarrassed, be my guest. Attempt to whittle away that behemoth one bite at a time as you hold it in flimsy foil that allows for escapees no matter how delicate your process. Watch as chicken bombs repeatedly fall to the seat next to you, spraying rice and guacamole debris in a six inch radius. Attempt to clean the sauce out of your jeans without grinding it in. Try to convince yourself that the smile on the face of the elderly gentleman you just made eye-contact with is not because he is laughing at you internally. Grimace as a man in an expensive suit sits next to you, and pray that you succeeded in cleaning the grease from his seat. Ponder the thought that you haven’t even boarded the plane, and you already feel gross from this experience, feeling none of the class you secretly hoped to exude on a plane headed to Paris.

However, if you would rather avoid such disturbing happenings, the answer is clear. Simply say no to gargantuan burritos before your next transatlantic flight.

Why am I at the airport? Apparently, I’m going to Scotland. I say apparently because it hasn’t quite sunk in, even now. While I am there I will fulfill my internship requirements by working with a great Christian ministry called CLC, in a bookshop with a cafe in it. For those of you so inclined to pray, I would surely appreciate it. Please pray for travels, acclimating, that I’ll be a blessing to the team and anyone I meet, that this will help give me direction for the future, and most importantly that I would learn to love people well and be able to live and speak in a way that reflects Jesus to all I might meet.

I can still be contacted via the internet and snail mail, but my phone will be off for the summer. I’ll attempt to keep updating those interested here as time allows.

I truly have no idea what this summer holds, but that’s fine because He does, and He is going with me on this new adventure.

Published in: on May 26, 2016 at 4:24 pm  Leave a Comment  

Weeds.

IMG_6063[From the archives: Spring Semester 2016]

It all began in chapel.

I had decided that I was going to listen.

I was going to pay attention.

I was going to learn something!

Yet as the speaker went on, I found myself mentally sinking back in my chair in relief. Here was a sermon that was not for me.

Actually, I didn’t quite think those exact words to myself, but I did categorize this sermon as addressing something that actually wasn’t a struggle for me. Finally, I could relax a little, trusting that I would never become like the person in the illustration the speaker was using.

It was then that I noticed Pride had a smug little grin on his face, and he was  kicked back in his chair, relaxing. He had done his job. He had planted a seed.

In that moment I knew I was in danger, and I swiftly asked the Lord to keep me humble. It was a sincere prayer, and somehow even as I prayed it I had the feeling that though I had no idea how it could play out, I would soon see that I struggled more in this particular area than I thought.

It doesn’t happen often, but sometimes I just don’t want to be right.

Less than three hours later I found myself curled up on my bed sulking. Thankfully the expansive pity party I was planning in my mind was called off as I was drawn to take this to God. The last three hours had been painful for me, and I mulled over them with the Lord. As I prayed I realized that things has had proven painful not because of others’ actions, but because the way I was thinking about the situation was wrong. Enter the irony.

The very thing I had so recently been sure I would never do, I had just done.

“Surely not!” I began to protest.

All my objections melted into tears.

I hated this feeling. My heart that had seemed so pure had failed the white glove test, and I was ashamed.

Yet as I repented and talked through this with God, my pain was soon soothed with the balm of thankfulness.

I had asked the Lord to keep me humble, and here He was humbling me. I regularly ask the Lord to show me the ways I grieve Him, and here He was revealing buried sin. He was helping me weed it out before it could grow into a full-fledged poisonous plant. Ripping out that weed truly hurt. Yet I would far rather experience this short lived painful process now, than wait until the bitterness of my bad way of thinking had gone beyond my own mind to affect those around me. Not only that, but He was removing a weed so that a healthy plant could grow.

Through this I was reminded of the sobering truth that it is never safe to assume that I am beyond any sin. How dangerous it is to think otherwise, and apparently I must learn to guard against even that which might appear ridiculous. I found that though He has done a great deal to change me already, I apparently do not know how much grime is still left in my heart. Oh to be fully sanctified!

Yet until that day of complete sanctification comes, I can rest in the fact that He knows the true state of my heart at all times. He always did; I do not surprise Him.

And He still loves me? I am still His child? He has not given up on me? He longs to help me grow?

This is a delight that makes the painful weeding process worth it.His love assures me that which might hurt for a moment is ultimately for good.

How kind He is to discipline those He loves, and how amazing it is that He loves us indeed.

 

Published in: on May 25, 2016 at 9:12 pm  Leave a Comment  

Spackle.

[Mostly] Written during Summer, 2014, when we were building our house:

I have dreamt about spackle* three times in the past week. Yes, spackle; that gooey substance one uses to fill holes in drywall, etc. You see, I have spent many hours this week spackling our new living quarters. As I have climbed the rungs of spackling procedures (but without intensifying ability), I have become inadvertently obsessed with spackle. When I drive home from working with it all day, no matter how I attempt to think upon anything else, all I can notice are the grooves, cracks and pot holes in the asphalt that I feel compelled to fill and smooth. I have begun to pay close attention to the walls of our apartment, noting each flaw. I found myself attempting to fill an indentation on my face with my foundation, and I see spackle and a mud knife when I close my eyes. As I was drifting off to sleep the other night, I dreamt that a fantastically colored hot air balloon drifted down from the skies. I boarded it, and was blissfully enjoying soaring through the clouds when my relaxation was shattered. The basket of the hot air balloon suddenly and inexplicably morphed into a giant spackling pan, and a mud knife descended upon it to scrape itself clean. Like it or not, for some reason I am fixed on this spackle thing.

It even came out in conversation with a complete stranger at a coffee shop. He laughed and said something to the effect of “Isn’t it funny how the things we focus on come out like that?” He then told me that after working on a poetry project, he dreamt that a man in his business meeting began speaking completely in poetry.

It struck me a bit odd how quick I was to talk to a stranger about something as rudimentary as spackling. It just slipped on out, since it was on my mind. And in my dreams.

What in the world.

Here it was, concrete proof that what you focus on will affect you.

It seemed that my life so revolved around what I was doing day after day that I was being consumed by it. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the irrepressible words and thoughts that were my obsession proved to be something far less dismal and more meaningful than a drywall process?

Wouldn’t it be great if I speaking of the greatness of God just slipped out as easily when speaking with strangers because it has absorbed my life?

I have no great cogitations on this subject, dear friends.

I simply want to see this, in my life and the lives of my brothers and sisters in Christ. That we will continue to grow in degrees of obsession. That the praise of God will ever be on our lips, and that our conversations would be ones that build each other up. I could ramble on forever concerning how to make this happen, but I think most of us know deep down where we individually need to start. But collectively, here’s my challenge. Church, let us be known for our love for the living Christ and each other rather than meaningless obsessions and behaviors that in the scope of eternity do not matter anymore than my silly spackle will.

*Disclaimer to anyone who understands construction: I might use incorrect terminology here. We were doing drywall, and I was told the goo was spackle, and spackle I shall go with.I only mention this because people have been confused by me with this before.

Published in: on April 19, 2016 at 7:22 pm  Comments (2)  

Oh the wonderful . . . what?

IMG_4947The silver cross ornament dangled from the rearview mirror of our vehicle, its pastel jewels catching the sun as it swayed. It had been a long trip to Colorado, and I remember pondering during those hours just how different this cross was from the one my savior died upon.

I remembered this moment years later in chapel as we sang “The Wonderful Cross.”  The message of the song as a whole is indeed good, but I became stuck on that one line that composes its title. As we sang the phrase over and over again, my imagination kicked in and I suddenly felt a bit sick. I had to push through the words. Could others see me grimace?

The cross is a gruesome instrument of execution, meant to bring an end to the life of a criminal. I suddenly felt I was singing, “oh the wonderful electric chair,” “oh the wonderful noose. “

“Oh the wonderful guillotine!” Complete with splattered blood, limp body and jeering crowd.

I’m not trying to be disgusting here, but this is the sort of cross Jesus endured. Not the Americanized, bejeweled sort of cross that is embroidered on purses or worn around the neck.

There’s nothing wrong with identifying yourself by using the symbol of the cross, but I know that I for one have become too accustomed to it. I have let myself accept the pretty version of the cross, the version with the blood of my Savior scrubbed clean. The version that included the shame of a criminal’s death and the scorn of an angry mob. A mob that might as well have included me, since it was for my criminal deeds He died.

I think it is dangerous to forget the grim reality of the cross on those days when we are tempted to be ashamed of the gospel. When we are tempted to be angry at God for our suffering. When we are being treated unfairly by those around us. When we are lonely. Jesus endured the pain, the jeering, the shame, the separation from the Father: publically for all to see. He understands experientially the horrors our world can dish out, and this is another of many reasons that he is the perfect intercessor before God for our sin scarred humanity.

When I forget this and look only at the sanitized cross I am not allowing myself to be comforted and strengthened by the One who experienced suffering and abuse in ways beyond my imagination. When I am lonely and I grumble, I lose the chance to look to the Messiah who cried out from that cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Surely there is no depth of loneliness greater than what Christ felt when the Father poured out His wrath on Him because of our sin.

Sometimes I bypass the cross entirely. I sing the words to of this hymn and only remember what the cross led to, which is in fact, why we sing out “oh the wonderful cross.” It is the result of Christ’s obedience on the cross that makes it wonderful to us.

Please, when you think of the cross, do remember His victory and His glory. Remember that He is no longer on that cross. Be in awe of what His resurrection means. Remember always that He is alive, and that He is coming back for His own.

But on those days when you feel the sorrows of sin, or the pain of suffering please remember also the truly sacrificial love He exhibited by taking the route of the cross. He exchanged heaven for earth, humbling Himself to the point where He was led to death by the people He created so that He might obtain victory; glorifying the Father by giving us the chance to be made right with God.  Let that, or rather, let Him be your comfort and your strength when the temptation to despair rises. His was the greatest sacrifice, and His is and will be the greatest victory.

Published in: on April 16, 2016 at 3:24 pm  Leave a Comment  

Contemplations on a Dreary Sunrise

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I imagine that watching the  sun rise through drizzling rain clouds is not a favorite pastime of many. I also doubt that its monotone hues cause any pauses of admiration. There are no dramatic bursts of color that mark the horizon with beauty, but instead progressively lighter shades of grey slyly permeate the expanses.

And yet, the main purposes of the sun have not been thwarted.

It remains there, shedding light so that we might see and navigate the world around us.

It remains there, providing the warmth our planet needs to insulate us from the deathly chill of space.

The sunrise that comes through rain clouds might lack the dazzling beauty that we long for, but it still provides light and life just the same.

Therefore on those grim days where it might seem that the sun isn’t even shining, it is good to remember that we are still being sustained by a far away star, and a nearby Son.

Published in: on January 22, 2016 at 3:15 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Persistent Artist

brushesIf my life is as a canvas

And God is working a masterpiece

I am sometimes as a wayward child

Smearing fingerprints across the handiwork

Of the one who gave the great artists their skill.

 

When clarity and conviction meet

I stand in utter shame before what I have done,

My pride has again blighted

Something He was making beautiful

To show off His might

 

Time passes

And others stare disapprovingly

As I try in vain to fix it

Running my stained hands across it

Smearing it, making it worse.

 

I stare at the mess in sorrow,

Repentance on my tongue,

Knowing others have seen this folly.

Yet suddenly hope springs

As I realize that the Artist is still working.

 

My life is not a watercolor painting

Which can be irrevocably marred

With one slip of even the most careful hand.

No, my Master paints in acrylics.

His is a medium of grace.

 

Layer upon layer he covers over my stains

His hand works His skill and a picture emerges that is no result of my hand

I keep him busy as this child grows,

But His artistry is persistent.

He works redemption in His artistry of forgiveness, in His medium of grace.

Published in: on September 10, 2015 at 2:44 pm  Comments (2)  

Yearbook

1238143_594117287955_1638468698_nSummer has passed the halfway mark, and some of us are itching to return to school, while others are now slightly perturbed that I have reminded them of that fact. As the return to university grows imminent, I have been reflecting on my first year and pondering what the return will be like. There will be many old friends to catch up with as well as friends whose absence will be felt. There will also be fresh faces to meet. All of this leaves me in great anticipation. Flipping through my yearbook shows me that in spite of the fact that there were occasions I felt a bit hermit-ish during the first semester, the people at school were definitely responsible for many of the joys of this past school year.

I find people to be delightfully fascinating, as they are something akin to walking, talking pieces of art and collections of stories. I tell you this because for a little bit here it might sound as if I don’t care for people at all. That’s not true, rather the case is that sometimes I allow my viewpoint to become skewed. This is especially true when thrown into a new situation with crowds of strangers, where good sense seems to flee and pride or insecurity fight each other to take its place.

Pondering how this new season might progress has led me to rehash some of the lessons I learned during this past year.

Lesson One: Don’t write off people as potential friends.

During orientation I sat with a girl in the caf who was dressed in our school’s athletic paraphernalia. She consequently explained to me what cross country was, and the thought passed my mind that we wouldn’t be friends. The reason?  Athletic people don’t like me, I told myself. Thankfully, I was proven wrong. If I had clung to this idea I would have missed out on an amazing friend.

Lesson Two: You never know how your common interests or differences will connect you

Begin asking questions, and you might just find that you have strange things in common. A favorite preacher, family members who know each other, being part of an obscure missions agency, a love of old TV shows, jazz, or Anne of Green Gables. All of these can serve to spark a friendship. Or, you’ll find that your differences are a chance to learn and stretch yourself. How good it can be to make friends with people who are not just like you, for it makes life so much more intriguing.  You learn that what is normal for you might not be perceived as normal by someone else. For example, some people don’t view smelling books to be an enjoyable activity. Who knew?

Lesson Three: Don’t assume. Don’t do it. Really.

For the outgoing introvert such as myself, being forced into a crowd of strangers provokes many assumptions. They can range from disparaging thoughts of “oh, they’d never want to talk to me” to the desire to instantly shove others into manageable categories. However, doing this is a recipe for trouble.  I have found that I can learn something from everybody, and taking the time to get to know someone better often reveals startling discoveries.

The quiet one is just waiting to be asked to tell a story.  The insecure girl blooms when given a little encouragement. The suave guy is actually not very kind, but some of the slightly awkward people truly are. The unassuming fellow is exceedingly talented. The girl who seems to have it all together needs Jesus just as much as the rest of us. The “carefree” ones often use jokes and smiles to cover the pain they deal with regularly, whether it be physical or emotional.

This has shown me that I must seek to love people from the beginning, and not wait until they show me some quality that I deem “likable” before I decide to do so. That is Biblical, after all, while my temptation to categorize people (including myself on occasion) according to “worthiness” is not.

Lesson Four: Observing other people is a chance to be inspired

This past year I  found myself inspired by many who were likely unaware of this fact. I saw the pains they took to finish a job correctly, or how they listened attentively when others were speaking. I saw them include the person who appeared lost in the cafeteria, and sometimes that lost person was me. I saw how they spoke the truth in love even though it made them uncomfortable. I saw how they humbly accepted this loving rebuke. I saw how intent they were on learning, their endless hospitality, the love they have for people groups they’ve never encountered, or the simple joy they gained from a good conversation.  I’ve observed the ways God has changed them, the ways He’s using them, and the passions He’s given them. I saw their honesty about their brokenness, listened to their thankfulness, and observed their willingness to drop what they were doing to pray with those who needed it.  In these things I saw God’s handiwork.

I am thankful for the dear people at school who became friends and are becoming friends. I am thankful for the nights I came home to scads of shoes scattered across the entry way, and a living room so crammed full of smiling faces that I had to step over people to get to my room. I might not have always been awake enough to join them, but I most certainly enjoyed hearing their laughter from the other room as I drifted to sleep. I am thankful for those who included me when I was too tired to attempt to include myself. I am thankful for those who shared stories with me this year, whether it be their testimony or fanciful fiction drawn from their well of creativity. I am thankful that the Lord has reminded me that we all are in different chapters of our redemption stories, and that instead of drawing swift conclusions about people I should rather seek to encourage them in this grand story. I am also incredibly thankful for those who have chosen to encourage me in this way.

Encountering a person is encountering a new volume of stories, and as they say, you can’t judge a book by its cover.

Whether at school or the grocery store, we meet them every day. It’s all rather exciting, don’t you think?

Published in: on July 12, 2015 at 8:21 pm  Comments (4)  
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