Monday, December 30, 2013

Lesson 199. Love always has and always will bring you through.

Tomorrow is the last day of 2013. Somewhere in between arguing with my family about Downton Abbey, and eating copious amounts of chocolate and as a result feeling deathly ill (wild exaggerations are my strong point. That and eating copious amounts of chocolate, did I tell you that already? I can't remember on account of all the chocolate) I've begun the process prompted by the turn of the year most commonly known as reflection. Are you still thinking about chocolate? Cheeky, stop that, your waistline will be unappreciative of my blog posts and ban you from reading them if you so weakly surrender to the train of thought that I'm dancing around and I rather like it when you read my terribly composed rambly (not even a word) sentences.

Reflection stirs up all too many emotions at the best of times. How do you sum up 365 days of conversations and revelations? How do you choose what you want to do better next time from 8675.81 hours of blunders and battles won? Well, to put it simply, you don't. I've typed and backspaced, mentally paced in one direction and turned to the next in the hope that I might conjure up some grand conclusion of the year that has been, but I can't. It's been the worst year of my life, but I have learnt the best lessons yet, and although I will not be sorry to see the end of 2013, the details of it will remain etched in my mind for as long as I live. I have learnt that life is never what you expect, that detailed plans will always falter to hopelessness, and that above all, love gets through. Love gets you through.

And it's not the kind of love that lies within romantic gestures or pretty pictures. It isn't soundtracked or perfectly timed. It is the love within the arms that caught me when I got the voicemail message that changed my life forever. It is the love that sat beside me when I sat glued to a pew in the Bethlehem College chapel. It is the love that shows up without needing a prompt or an invitation, and offers a hand regardless of efforts to push it away. The kind of love that will carry you looks more like your Dad than Ryan Gosling, but it is unwavering and without agenda. It doesn't seek to gain, but to give. That's the kind of love worth investing in, and that's the kind of love that changes things.

It is a quiet love that often goes unrecognised, which perhaps makes it the most spectacular of all. It doesn't ask for recognition or result, it loves because it is. He loves because He is, and I have never been so sure of God's ability to pour love in abundance into the broken places. It is a love that cradles vulnerability, and is far from blind to your flaws. It more than sees them, it knows them and chooses to persist in the small moments and gifts of each day so that you know that it is always present. It is a love that consists of hand squeezes in the hard moments, shares in belly laughter in the happier, and encompasses all of the things that love should. It carries hope.

So I give you this to see in the New Year, I do not present a resolution or a groundbreaking revelation, I ask that you might acknowledge that love somewhere between 11.59pm and 12am. I ask that you might appreciate it, that you might take the time to let those who have stood beside you this year know that their quiet love has played an important part in your journey to the 31st of December, 2013. Go into the New Year knowing that no matter what it holds, love will bring you through it. Trust me on this one, there is no circumstance in which love will neglect you and your heart. In fact, in the hardest of situations, love is highlighted by people you never expected.

My eyes are weary and my mind seems to have followed them to bed, so I leave you with a cliche that I very much hope you'll consider heading into the New Year: Love always has and always will bring you through. 

Monday, December 16, 2013

Lesson 198. Christmas miracles happen.

If you're rolling your eyes at the fact that this is my second Christmas post this evening, please seek the help of a professional immediately because you may be severely ill. If you're about to start on about how Christmas should be confined to malls and the day itself, please imagine me performing a festive prance around you, singing Cliff Richard's classic about mistletoe and wine, and promptly placing a Christmas coloured kiss on your little grinchy cheek.

Hello lovers, good tidings of great joy. As afore mentioned, if Christmas was a man I would marry him immediately, and my preparations for this years festivities could easily be compared to that of a bride. Right, starting to sound a little bit weird so I'll press on.

I purchased 22 metres of solar fairy lights for my front porch in September. I was about to justify this decision to you and then realised that to do that would mean I think it needs justifying and that in itself is a preposterous idea. So the fairy lights arrived and I put them in one of my Christmas boxes, then tucked the box away until the time was right. Then the time arrived, so I got them out, stared at their German instructions for about 35 minutes, and then decided to just give them a go. I clambered about the porch with a few near falls, but I got there. They looked like they would be perfect, until I tried to turn them on, and failed. This continued for about a week and a half, and my Christmas spirit dwindled. They would not turn on and I had no idea how to fix them, my Lou tried to fix them but alas, they wouldn't turn on for her either. I gave up, I was going to have to go to the tacky Christmas shop up the road and purchase some overpriced lights purely for their English instructions. 

Defeated, I let my light disappointment fade to the back of my mind where I keep all my minor but still painful failures. The next night, my friends were dropping me home when a rather miraculous thing happened. I got out of the car, to see my front porch lit by the very fairy lights that had caused me such frustration. I literally ran into the house and announced to everyone that a Christmas miracle had taken place, and my sister agreed, because they hadn't even been on when she'd arrived home only about an hour earlier. 

So take heart and trust that sometimes Christmas miracles happen. Maybe yours is a little different, maybe it's a Christmas day where your rowdy Auntie doesn't get too drunk and insult other relatives, or maybe it's a message from a friend you grew apart from, or a smile from a someone unexpected. However small or big, celebrate your Christmas miracle, announce it with the joy and volume that it deserves. Christmas miracles happen. 

Lesson 197. Miss them the best way at Christmas time.

I've been preparing for Christmas for months now. Why? Because it's the most wonderful time of the year and something about the smell of pine and overplayed Christmas tunes make my weak heart giddy. In October I shut myself in my bedroom for six hours with Christmas music on repeat and made a two metre Christmas garland, disregarding completely the fact that I had a thirty percent test the next day. Christmas time, my friends, is my favourite. But as usual, it's teaching me things about growing up that I didn't plan for or prepare whilst creating lanterns out of tin cans.

I think as you grow older, it becomes clear that the happiest moments often come with a tinge of sadness. Every day I replay singing Justin Bieber's 'Mistletoe' in the back of my year 13 english class with my best friend and how with every conversation we had about this time of year she'd tell me that I needed to drink chai lattes because they taste like Christmas in a cup. Every day I miss her, and the happy moments often come with a bittersweet aftertaste, a longing for what was. There will always be the absence of a laugh that filled my whole heart.

It doesn't make it any less beautiful, and it certainly doesn't change the fact that Christmas lights occasionally prompt happy tears. Missing someone does not detract from the joy, it simply sits beside it and acknowledges them. I'm inclined to believe it's even more beautiful when we realise that even amongst the most broken things, we experience joy. That alongside the imperfections and the struggles of life, we are capable of celebration. There will always be a space for my best friend, and I'm coming to terms with the fact that the best days of my life will be touched by sorrow, but I'm also determined to see what she would've seen and embrace each moment with the fullness of the joy that she carried. It's not about forgetting or pretending, it's quite the opposite. It's about knowing that no matter how much it aches, you can hold tight to memories and feel absolutely broken and absolutely overjoyed at the same time.

So be here, in this season, and be happy about it. Not in a superficial hiding out way, but look back fondly and thank the Lord you're still smiling when you should be. Miss them the best way at Christmas time.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Lesson 196. Let yourself be happy.

I like to do a number of things when I fly. Firstly and most importantly, I like to adopt a terrible British accent and embarrass my big sister Annie by talking extremely loudly, saying 'anks' instead of 'thanks' and referring to myself as Bertha (A woman with a hearty appetite for mashed potatoes and plenty of love for her singlet-wearing pub-going beer-bellied husband Onslo)

Secondly, I like to put on a pre-planned playlist and come up with scenarios for each song. Most of the time they're unrealistically romantic and set my expectations of any male to enter into my life extremely high, but at least it's an enjoyable experience when I'm stuck on a night rider and I kind of wish I was four years old so that my Dad would carry me up to bed from the car.

Thirdly, I like to contemplate life. This is where I tell you about what I've been contemplating (If you're feeling like soundtracking this scenario, I suggest you play 'The Heart of Life" by my boo John Mayer, mostly just because he's the best and my crush on him is so large that I feel it necessary to mention him at every opportunity) At 11.06pm last night, I sat on a dimly lit plane and thought about happiness.

I over complicate happiness in every way that my muddled mind can come up with. I convince myself not to trust it too much because it will end if I believe in it, things can't be this good without taking a turn for the worst at some stage, right?

Wrong. I'm wrong about that, and I'm learning the hard but really happy way. Stop thinking about ways in which things can go wrong and start thinking about ways in which they can go right. I had a conversation with my Dad on Friday in which he told me I had to stop being such a cynic and start living with hope.

Lean into happiness, into it's shoulder or somebody's eyes. Be where you are and be happy about it, these things don't happen every day. I'm not asking you to ignore or dismiss that hardship might lie ahead, I'm asking you to give yourself a break. Don't over analyse where you are or what it might mean for tomorrow, simply sit in happiness for a moment or two and I think you'll realise that it's not about the mights or the maybe's, that the real what if is what if I let this moment pass me by. Be present and bring joy forth within that.

Let yourself be happy.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Lesson 195. Pick up somebody's pen.

I'm sitting on the sixth floor and my head hurts. I do this dreadful thing where I start to think about dinner or how to solve everyone else's relationship problems and start staring vacantly but probably quite intensely in a certain direction, and unfortunately this has led to me making eye contact with the same boy three desks away at least four times. Sorry, he has nothing to do with the rest of this post; we didn't fall in love or figure out we were twins that were separated at birth or anything of that nature, I just had to tell you because when I feel uncomfortable I have to verbalise/share my discomfort. It's not always the best thing in the world. Oh heavens, he just smiled at me when he walked past like he thinks I'm deliberately looking at him, which I am very, very much not. This situation is growing more disastrous by the minute. Welcome to what is probably the most entertaining part of today and the story that I will most likely tell my flatmates at the end of the day when I arrive home. I apologise for the completely irrelevant anecdote once again, It's exam time and I'm probably procrastinating a little. I'm drawing out this post so that I have to spend a few less minutes writing about the political theoretical lenses through which we see the world and I can spend a few more minutes pretending that none of that exists while I write to you. 

If you're in study season as I am, and you have a splitting headache like I do (although I think it's mostly due to the fact that I tied my bow on my head too tight this morning) you're probably feeling a little over it. I've found myself slipping into bad habits over the last few days, like seeing that the dishwasher is empty and leaving it to empty itself (i.e. I'm so stressed someone else will do it) or being in too much of a rush to hold the door for a stranger. It's so easy to get caught up and forget to do the small things that make the world a little brighter for everyone else in it. I dropped a pen earlier today and someone picked it up for me, and it reminded me that at the busiest or most stressful of times, we often neglect to do the little things that really matter to other people. Something in us takes over and we stop being kind to other people even though we aren't even really taking the time to be kind to ourselves. Make the effort simply because it makes a difference. Take a split second out of your stressed out schedule to do something for someone that inconveniences you. All it took was a moment of remembering that we're all still human, a instant of connection in which a stranger reached out with the most basic of my needs, but it mattered in that moment and it matters now because it made me realise the importance of making small sacrifices for others.

Pick up somebody's pen. 

Friday, November 8, 2013

Lesson 194. Choose life.

Tonight I share with you one of the lessons I hold closest to my heart.

I spent the first eight months of this year surviving via sleep walking. I was numb except for when I cried, which seemed all too often. I had days where getting out of bed was too much, I had hours where all I did was drive and then park to stare at streetlights, I had moments where breathing seemed like too much to ask and standing without my knees buckling was way beyond what I was capable of. I ate way too much. This is grief. And it was okay for a season, for a time. I don't look back with regret for the way my unraveling of grief began, we all have different journeys and that was where mine started. I shut down part of my heart, I didn't engage with anyone in lectures at Uni, I simply attended and returned home to the only other faces I saw. I'd call my mother in tears telling her I couldn't be in Auckland any more, and she'd tell me that I had to be, knowing better than I did that running does not fix anything. It was life without living, it was puffy eyes and washed out skin, it was two ams in tears too often.

I couldn't tell you where or how I worked it out, but somewhere in the events of the last few months, I started to live again. Life became more than just a routine. The small victories still lay in the basic needs of life, but I began again to see greater victories, like letting people in, and laughing with more than just my voice. It doesn't mean to say I am not still grieving- I am. It means to say that amidst the heartache it is possible to be more than just a shell. I took my time getting there, but gradually getting out of bed in the morning was less of a mountain. I started attending a Zumba class with a hilarious assortment of middle ages ladies, utilising the fruit bowl (which I once thought was a joke, like, really? I don't need a whole bowl for that nonsense. Get me a cookie jar) and forcing myself to be social. It wasn't easy, but it started to come easier once I realised why I was doing it.

I couldn't go on the way that I was. Not because it was hazardous, although it certainly wasn't good for me, it was more than that. I couldn't go on the way that I was and be okay with myself because in doing so, I wasn't living for the loved one that I lost. In no way am I saying there is a time frame or a certain way to go about this messy grief stuff, but I think we all reach a point where we realise that the best thing that we can do, is to live again.

To not let loss win, but instead to choose to love life once again. To get out of bed today and do something with someone who makes you laugh, or better yet, get out of bed today and do something for someone else. To choose to walk instead of taking the bus, just so that you might smile at a stranger or see the sunset on your way home and be reminded that no matter how grim it feels, there is joy to be found within each day, within each struggling soul.

Choose life. Let the little victories lead you to greater ones, trust in your ability to face the world. You don't have to be perfect, you can go out with your extra five kilograms of grief weight and you can even cry in front of people if you need to, you can struggle with the fact that life is moving forwards. Don't feel guilty, it's not moving on. It doesn't mean pretending or even brave facing, be honest and open and talk about how you feel. But it means you can't run any further or hide beneath your layers of pain, it means facing yourself and making a choice. This means taking a look at the life that you lost and asking yourself how you can best honour and those memories and the heart that was.

Choose life.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Lesson 193. Let off fireworks with people you love.

Two hours and twenty four minutes. That's how long I sung really badly and really loudly last night to Westlife's first two albums. They were my only company on the way home to Tauranga for a couple of days, but they're arguably the best company one could even dream of so I wasn't complaining. I say arguably because after that John Mayer post I wrote I dreamt that he asked me on a date and Westlife have never asked me on a date in my dreams so it's up for debate.

It was Guy Fawkes, and on my drive home I got to experience something kind of incredible. As I drove through the middle of what felt like a thousand nowhere towns, I witnessed more fireworks shooting up into the sky than I'd ever seen before. I, like them, was only passing through. I, like them, only caught a moment of beauty before moving on. It was kind of a lonely moment, and it left me wishing there was someone in the passenger seat. Although it was merely a coincidence that I was alone, it made me realise how important it is to have the ones you love there to reach out to not just in the hard seasons, but in the moments where for a second all you can see is that perfect shot into the sky and the way it seems to light up every messy piece of the world. 

Each time I drove past a fireworks display, I saw silhouettes huddled around the smoke. I didn't hear them but my heart did, and I didn't see their arms but I felt the way they were wrapped around each other. I've learnt so much this year about appreciating people in the times where my life seems too hard to face alone,  but I've given little thought to the importance of having them there in the happy times. Do we forget to love on each other when things are good? Do we only spend time in the arms of the people we love when things are hard? I don't want tears to be the only reason for my shoulder or the shoulders of my friends, I want simple joy to be a reason to embrace one another. 

When life doesn't give you lemons but instead offers a breathtaking display of fireworks, make sure you're arm in arm with your loved ones. Tell people how much you appreciate them in every season, even if you feel like you don't 'need' to. I guarantee you'll want them there on Guy Fawkes, whether metaphorical or the 5th of November.

Let off fireworks with people you love. 

Friday, November 1, 2013

Lesson 192. You love who you love.

John Mayer is coming to New Zealand and I don’t even know where to begin. Clearly, the only appropriate music to listen to when experiencing such elation is the man himself, so I popped on Paradise Valley tonight and lay on my floor.

I like to put my feet up on the ladder that leads to the turret and put my fairy lights on the setting where it feels like they’re breathing with me. I like to just be and I like to just believe that one day I’ll find someone with as much appreciation for John Mayer and fairy lights as me and when I do I’ll marry him before he even knows what he’s changing my last name from. Tonight as I lay on my floor and pretended that the rest of the world didn’t matter and that I don’t have a really scary exam tomorrow, I realised something in my heart that I’d often discussed in my head but never really felt before.

Naturally, it was John who prompted it. I say naturally because if you’re listening to John Mayer and you’re not having life revelations you’re probably not listening hard enough. "Who You Love" has been played 42 times in the last three days and I couldn't be happier about that. In the first verse, our boy John says "I've tried to run before, but I'm not running anymore, 'cause I've fought against it hard enough to know, that you love who you love" and its been running circles in my head ever since. I love the concept of stopping the running routine that so many of us have going on. I love the idea that its a good thing to sometimes just sit in that love and accept it for what it is, outside of the fear of rejection or the uncertainty of tomorrow. I love the idea that love is stronger than the ultimate outcome, or our human inclination to fight it or run from it. 

I think this is because today I realised that there’s more to be celebrated than just the happy ending. I say this because I’ve been sitting straight backed in the cold arms of emotional numbness for nine months and 14 days and I had the revelation that feeling something, regardless of the outcome or the end product, is something to celebrate. The surrender to hope, to happiness, to letting someone in, is something we should be proud of and acknowledge- whether or not we end up with his and hers towels. We place too much value on mystery, on the elusive idea that loving someone who is emotionally unavailable is attractive, but it’s simply not true. Maybe the most attractive thing we can do is be honest, and instead of hoping for something from someone, just be content in the fact that your heart isn’t so broken after all. Hey, even through the heartache and the loss and the grief, by the grace of God your heart is still beating and even a slight change of pace or a flutter is a victory. It is a triumph. It is not to be belittled nor forgotten in pining for tomorrow, it is to be savoured and held onto for today. Because even if you didn’t get your happy ending, you know your heart is stronger than your hurt and that means that one day, you will. You love who you love, so be like John and stop running. Even if it doesn't go the way you planned it would, letting in and loving is something that will always stand as reminder that regardless of the devastation and heartache of life, your heart has the capacity to overcome. 

You love who you love. 

Lesson 191. Surprise someone.

Like all good stories start, it was a fairly ordinary Wednesday night.

I was attempting to study when we decided that the best course of action for the evening was to put on girl pop and give having hips that don't lie a go, just like our girl Shakira did all those years ago. The curtains were open, so when there was a knock on the door I naturally assumed it would be the neighbours begging to be my friends. And by naturally assumed I meant I had a split second daydream about it before coming to the conclusion that one of the boys across the road probably just wanted to borrow something that they couldn't be bothered buying. So I told Jess to get the door because I was too involved in my bollywood inspired dance moves to Selena Gomez. 

I was wrong about who was at the door. And I don't even mean wrong in the way that it was actually a wayward traveller who was lost and stumbled across our flat in the rain looking for a place to stay, it wasn't even something I'd considered before (Yes, I've considered a wayward traveller coming to stay. I think it would be kind of nice if there wasn't such a murderous undertone to the concept. But there is, so I should probably stop entertaining the thought that it would be a lovely way to make a friend whose couch I could sleep on if I was ever in Slovenia) It was the biggest and best surprise ever.

One of my best friends took off to the UK earlier this year, she left at relatively short notice to go and be with family for what was going to be at least six months. But on Wednesday night, Jess opened the door and there was silence, so I poked my head around the corner and saw a face I never expected to see. Naomi had pulled off coming home with literally about three people in the country knowing, and I don't know how she did it but let me tell you, it was well worth it. 

I did a sort of salmon like jump into the air, then wrapped her up in my arms, then ran outside and back in and then to the other end of the house, and then behaved like David after dentist for the rest of the night. I was so happy. For that moment, the fact that I will never be remotely close to being Beyonce Giselle Knowles-Carter and that I had spent the night putting off study for a 20 percent test for a paper that I didn't and still don't understand, didn't matter at all. 

Do that for somebody. Change their day or their week or their life by doing something amazing spontaneously, bring joy by just showing up. Surprise someone. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Lesson 190. Put the phone down.

Sleep most often finds me after several rounds of racing penguin at around 2am.

Sleep most often leaves me at the sound of a message from somebody who wants something at around anytime that suits them. At this point, happiness does not ensue but rather a groan and furrowed brows over puffy eyes that have not been closed for nearly long enough. 

My phone is my point of distraction 'til the early hours and is my wake up call whenever it pleases. It goes off mid-conversation and more often than not takes the focus off whoever I'm actually with to someone in cyber space. 

It's not all bad. I'm the first to admit that my phone has captured moments and memories and I love it for the way it so briskly connects me to other human beings. But when I face the truth about my stress levels and sleep cycles, I find that my phone is the most negative influence about. I think it's time we put some boundaries around these babies. 

I've purchased myself an alarm clock, remember those? It is small and pink and rather revolutionary. It serves a single purpose and delightfully does so. My phone will no longer join Snoosan and I in the turret, but will remain on the floor, inactive as I slumber. I figure this is a good starting point. 

It's time to turn my phone to complete silence when spending time with someone. Full focus on the subject and not on cyber space. Maybe our generation struggles so much with dissatisfaction in relationships and in life in general because we spend so much time in an alternate reality. Instead we check emails in hope of one that might change our world, we respond to a message from someone else instead of answering the question of whoever is before us, and we invest in shallow social shenanigans instead of meaningful personal contact. 

I challenge you to set yourself some guidelines. To limit yourself to the cyber world and to engage with the real one; the hugs and kisses are literal and sarcasm is only sometimes misconstrued. It's beautiful out here, join me?

I get that this isn't the greatest revelation I've ever had, but it's practical and I'm pretty sure if you give it a shot, you'll be glad you did. Put the phone down. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Lesson 189. Start with something small.

October 15, where did you come from? 

Sorry for several months of silence. There isn't an excuse of the tangible sort so conjure something intriguing up and tell it to yourself in your favourite accent.

I started by staring at my screen and realising that I have no idea how I used to unpack my life in a matter of sentences. I then remembered that I used to begin by looking at a detail of a day, kind of like a shoelace or a bus stop.

But today’s restart of silver linings is about the small things we see in one another. Why? Because I notice them all too often and leave them unsaid when I know that they are too special to let slip by. We breathe by baby steps, we move in moments, we need to notice them and know them for what they are. Here's to the bits and pieces that make up you and I. Here’s to my right eye that scrunches up more than my left when I smile, to the silent laugh that you do when something is too hilarious to handle. Know that perfection is fiction and the pieces that make you are precious truths.

Find something beautiful in someone and say it out loud. Start with something small.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Lesson 188. Live a life of gratitude.

Oh hello you, you sweet thing, you.

Tremendously kind of you to stop by, I acknowledge that our progress content wise has been notably slower this year but if you bear with me I think you'll find the learning process has overwhelmed me with a wealth of tales to tell.

It's July, how did we get here? I'm not really sure how I find myself on the seventh day of the seventh month already. I remember crawling into bed at 2am just after the new year ticked over having decided that this would be a year of good things. I was so very right and so very wrong in one moment, one thought.

We live and we learn and that's how it seems to go. The last seven months of my life feel as though they have taught me more than the last 18 years. I've made remarkable discoveries such as pina colada tea, learning that it's always necessary to open the door fully clothed, and that leaving the oven on 200 for the whole night will mean that your flatmates aren't altogether chuffed with you when they wake in the morning. I've stumbled across the importance of yelling out I love you before I flip the light switch, and making the effort to get out of your pajamas (because for heaven sakes its 5.30 on a Friday evening) and spend time with people even though all you really feel like doing is ordering in and settling down for a Full House Marathon alone. I've come to know that we have to just accept that many of life's questions will remain unanswered. But those are all stacked up for a rainy day when I can sit down and write you about their intricate details and my encounters learning such things. For now, I want to discuss something I realised today that I'll probably spend my whole life learning.

Today I went to my School's 25th year anniversary Thanksgiving service. I know I wrote on this last year, around thanksgiving actually, but I think the topic of being thankful deserves more than just one touch. I see it in a light like I've never seen it before. Thanksgiving can change the way we see a situation in an instant, thanksgiving could probably take on the world's problems if we let it.

I had a hissy before I left the house for the service. I stomped about the house yelling about how nobody had told me that I'd need to bring nice clothes to wear, nobody had prepared me for the service or even told me we were going to go. However, the mask of the clothing catastrophe came off when the tears started and the only words I could make out to my sister were "She should be here."

Nobody could've prepared me for how I'd feel about returning to the place where the most of my memories with my late best friend had been made, I was quite ready to bury myself under the covers and cry until my eyes were at that ugly puffy stage that forces sleep. However, I found myself sitting in the service just the same, fiddling with the side seams of my jacket and trying to think about anything other than what I was there to do.

And then came a minute of silence for those who couldn't be with us. Then came the moment that reduced my bleary eyes to tears and made me realise that I should be doing nothing but being thankful.

We hurt because we had. I feel deep loss because I knew deep love, and if that isn't something to be thankful for then I don't know what is. We grieve life ultimately because we share it, and in sharing it we stir a sense of happiness and create connections. I'm thankful that I had the time that I did with Caitlin. I'm thankful that the time I spent at school was spent making friends with people that have stood by me through the hardest time I've ever seen. I'm thankful that today I was reminded that being thankful can flip a perspective in an instant. I don't believe in happy-face fronts, but I do believe in a joy that resides in the same soul as a broken heart. I believe in gratitude.

So be thankful for the hurts and the heartache. Be thankful for the awkward blunders and the falls from grace because they make you better.  Be thankful for the ones you love, whether they are still with you or whether they've taken a step heavenwards. Be thankful for the painful processes of growing up and figuring out where things fit for you.

Right now I'm not even asking for you to be thankful for the roof over your head (although that's a definite plus) I'm asking for you to be thankful for growing pains. Seek the beauty in the wreckage and if you don't find it, make it.

Live a life of gratitude.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Lesson 187. I do not understand why some things happen, but I do understand that God is here.

As usual, I've been riding the waves of grief. I've been in and out of my head, and predominantly stuck in bed trying to figure out how to write you without breaking your heart but at the same time being honest.

The last few months have presented me with many truths. Some disheartening, some comforting, and some just simply as they are- blunt, confronting, raw. However, one that rings true everyday is one of a fathers love for his children. 

I understand that not everyone who reads my blog knows Jesus, and I acknowledge but make no apologies for the fact that this might cause you to raise your eyebrows. I accept that you and I can be different, but here's what I know:

Life will break your heart and make it in the same breath. You are going to get hurt and you're going to cry your heart out about it. At some points you're going to be mad and at others just desperately lonely. It is unbelievably beautiful and completely devastating at the same time. 

You might not understand where you are right now, I know I don't and I know I probably won't in my lifetime. Loss and grief are lifelong journeys and we can't question why they happen all the time; all it does is leave us drained and hopeless, with a bitter and bleak outlook. I've sat and stared at my white walls trying to work out why we lose people, or why things take the sudden turns that they do and I have no answers. 

However, I understand that regardless of why things happen, God is present within them. I do not know why we lose the ones we love, but I know that he holds us. I know that he gives me the grace to keep going when grief seems crippling. I know that he allows me moments of relief and happiness; a moment of laughter that echoes to my soul, a smile from a stranger on the street, or sometimes simply silence, stillness, a break from all the sadness.

I'm not asking you to believe in sunshine and lollipops when all you feel is heartache and anger. I'm asking you to believe in a steady hand in the storm, a heart that holds yours when all else falls. A God whose love does not depend on circumstance, he loves because he is.

Have hope in that. Maybe somebody left or you lost something or someone and you feel let down, you're confused and that's okay. But take heart in the fact that God is present in every situation, and we don't have to understand it to have hope that he always stronger and steadier than our hurts. 

I do not understand why some things happen, but I do understand that God is here. 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Lesson 186. Don't give up just yet.

Oh sweet thing, I write to you in a very sorry state.

I'm snuggled up on my floor in my sister's high-school musical blanket after having consumed too many cookies (sorry-not-sorry, they were worth every millimeter of bloated-beach-whale belly) and the ground is no longer visible due to a losing combination of sociology notes and discarded clothing from the yesterday's mid-morning can't decide what to wear tanty. Because I missed the first two weeks of Uni, I missed out on a sizable chunk of content to aid me in preparation for my sociology test tomorrow morning, and I'm struggling with it. I'm under prepared and over anxious, and at this point there isn't a lot I can do about it.

So, whilst sitting very much on Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens and their smug smiles (it didn't work out kids, not so smug now are we?) I've made a decision. Tomorrow morning, I go in with great gumption. I walk in with purpose, I take my seat and I write what I do know. Just as I always do with you.

Right now I know this much, I know that giving up is not an option until you've given all. I know that it's not enough to have a pity party and say I've done all I can tonight, I know that I have to read over my notes 'til my eyes are heavy and my head shuts up shop.

I know this much, I know that when life gives you lemons, you have to do more than make yourself a bowl of chocolate icing and sit on the floor in tears (I know this because I tried it earlier today and it didn't go so well.) When things get hard, and you don't know why they've played out the way they have, you have to stand up again. I'm all for taking time to process, I know this to be crucial, but I'm not for letting heartbreak paralyse you further. Winnie the Pooh once told me "You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think" and I believe him to be quite right.

I don't know if I'll pass tomorrow morning. But I know that the odds go up the minute I walk through the doors and into the lecture theatre. I know that they get a little greater during every crazy conversation I have with myself about cultural studies in sociology.

Maybe you've got a test in the near future. Maybe each day is a test, maybe just getting through is your mountain, but please know that each morning when your feet hit the floor you're getting your head one step closer to sunshine.

Oh sweet thing, don't give up just yet.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Lesson 185. Just wait.

Welcome to the world in which we live,

We rush. We demand answers. We want our wants to be supplied at the same rate as our needs. Prayers are fired up as 'gimme's' as opposed to trusting in his ability to know when and what is right for us. We tell God that we'd like this job at this time, the storm to calm within the next 5 minutes, and everything we don't understand to be clarified by the click of our fingers.

Then when things don't go the way we'd like them to, we're quick to grow weary and disheartened. We become disillusioned about God and his whereabouts, confused about why he's not doing as we've told him to. I know this because I've done this, and I've battled with him many sleepless, tearful nights over why things are the way they are. I've screamed into pillows and stuttered through sobs "Why do we lose the ones we love?" "Why does it hurt like this?" and "Why won't you just make this go away?"

I don't have answers to those questions and I probably never will. I haven't gained an understanding of why, but I have come to realise that in waiting for the sun to rise, the darkness pulls us closer together. In the midst of the pillow-screams and stutter-sobs, I've drawn close to the ones I love. I've leant on God and God alone because there is nothing else to hold onto. I have found hope in hopeless situations because I have had to, I have seen the strength of my heavenly father in getting me out of bed each morning. I have felt his arms as I have been shaken by deep sadness, and I have found a real, raw sense of joy as I rest in the only one able to truly restore.

So maybe it's not about getting what we want exactly when we want it. Maybe it's about being here, right now, messy, impatient, tired, sad, frustrated. Maybe it's about being here right now, growing closer to the author of the universe, knowing and loving him more, falling deeper into his arms and hearing his steady heartbeat sing out his rhythms of grace. Maybe waiting is not a hindrance but an opportunity.

Just wait.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Lesson 184. Let them take your appendix.

Ready for some grotesque medical particulars? Bet you never thought you'd see that on my blog. Don't worry, I'll speak plain and simple because I don't know how to speak any other way when it comes to anything slightly scientific.

My mother is a nurse, so naturally when I had my appendix out, she pulled my file and got information about the state of it. She came home extremely excited to explain to me the condition of my seemingly useless organ, only to discover she'd forgotten the notes. However, this didn't stop her from doing her very best to put me off my dinner whilst describing what had happened. She told me that my appendix had already started to burst, one end was perforated, and had they waited even a few hours longer I would've been in serious trouble. Talk about timing. Had any of the events I'm about to tell you of occurred any later, things could've been a lot worse. There was someone looking out for me, that's for sure.

I got ill on the first day back at Uni and I thought it was just a 24 hour bug, so I went home and tried to sleep it off. I woke up the next day, still wasn't better so called Nurse Sheena. After a series of questions, she told me I needed to get to the hospital. So off I went with my fabulous flatmate to the emergency department. Several medical professionals prodded at my abdomen with great strength and disregard for my pain levels, and they all told me the same thing. In fact, one man even wanted to bring in a bunch of medical students because it was "such a classic case." Appendicitis, my friends, appendicitis.

No one told me why it happened, so I guess I can't tell you the answer to that. All I know is that my appendix wanted out, so it told the rest of my body in the most violent way it could. It gave me an ultimatum, it said"Let me out, or I explode. And then I riddle your body with potentially life threatening infection." I decided it was probably best to give in to it's demands.

So that night, they took me in and took it out. I spent four days in hospital, three of them in a shared room with an 80-something woman called Margret (Margret had three budgies called Twinkle, Little, and Star. Her favourite pastimes include: Sitting on my bed, waking me up when I'm sleeping, and telling me about her budgies) I had a few less than delightful post-op complications, I had strangers feeling my swollen belly on an hourly basis, and I had much time to think.

I pondered the metaphorical appendix. The things we keep inside that we need to let out before they explode and become seriously dangerous. The things that we need to entrust others to help us get out, that we don't want to face or talk about. The things that continue to make us ache and hurt for as long as we let them live inside of us.

We have to stop. We have to stop with this idea that suffering in silence is okay, because it's not. And the longer you keep it to yourself, the more troubling it becomes. Let someone who knows what they're doing help you get it out. Whether it's a trusted friend, or a professional, make sure you don't hold on too long. Make sure you don't make too many excuses about it being nothing, about you being fine, because it's something, and you're not. The best thing you can do, is take it to someone who knows what they're doing, explain your symptoms, trust their diagnosis, and trust the course of action they suggest.

It might set you back a little for a while, it might hurt, you might have scars, but you'll get there. Let them take your appendix.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Dear Friend, you are my silver lining.

Happy Monday,
I would offer you a cupcake to ease the pain of the afore mentioned turn of the week, but I've already made plans to eat the whole plate myself and I don't cope awfully well with a change in direction.

Speaking of which, everything about my life is different now. We should talk.

Surprise surprise, I've changed. I lost a part of my heart this summer, and the whole ordeal, the whole learning to breathe again thing has changed me. Now now dear- don't fret, I'm still charming, full of wit and perfectly capable of writing absolute codswallop for several sentences. But I've learnt and I've grown and I've experienced the most extreme emotions one can encounter. I have hit the lowest place and I have seen the greatest light. I have hurt more than I thought humanly possible, and I have hoped more than I ever imagined. I have realised that nothing is permanent. That I love you should always be said out loud, that arms and hands are for holding. I've realised that you shouldn't always do what you're told, that sitting in silence can sometimes be the sweetest shoulder anyone can give.

I have realised that now is the time. Now is the time to make a difference. Now is the time to feed the hungry and clothe the poor. Now is the time to make friends with the awkward-kind-of-quiet-slightly-creepy kid that you only talk to when you need to borrow stationery. Now is the time to shake off inhibitions and to simply love with reckless abandon. You don't get a guaranteed tomorrow, so quit holding back with what really matters.

I quit my music degree. I knew it wasn't where my heart really was, because my heart lies here, in writing about what means something to me. So I quit, and normal University is as challenging as it is lonely. But I'm back, and I'm brave. More importantly, I'm determined.

This is the beginning of a new season, for you and I. Fresh start, blank page, big scary challenges up ahead. I'm confident we'll face them with as much good grace as we can muster (You might have to muster up majority of it, I'm a little clumsy when it comes to physical grace) and I'm confident we'll get there.

So take my hand, and let's embark on this journey all over again.

Dear Friend, you are my silver lining.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Stop talking, start doing.

Over the last few weeks I’ve come to recognise a sense of desperation for justice within my community.  Even strangers, those far removed from an extremely complex situation, are demanding answers of us. Onlookers are stopped on streets and are asked for their opinions by provocative journalists, they are asked to serve the local paper by giving uninformed answers that are dripping with judgment. I am growing tired, as I’m sure many others are, of the accusations of hypocrisy and dishonesty.

I too long for truth and justice in a greater sense, don’t we all? Well if we’re a country so hungry for truth and justice, it’s time we faced the world’s greatest injustice and most swept under the rug truth, the one my friends died fighting against: poverty.

Take your eyes off controversy for a second, off your neediness and so-called right to know the details, and focus them here. The tragedy of this situation goes beyond the four lives lost, the tragedy of this is that the very cause the team were fighting for is being ignored- by you. Justice was and is at the very centre of this trip. Meet an incredible team of nineteen individuals determined to witness firsthand the truth of poverty, and then further serve in any and every way possible. Meet the kind of people who could change the world and deserve to be honoured.

You want truth? Here’s truth: People are dying and we are not doing enough. You are angry because you think you have right to information and you think you’re being denied this? Get angry because helpless children born into broken situations have the right to be healthy, to be educated, to survive, but are being denied it every single day. You want justice? Stop talking about who is right and who is wrong and start acting. Start acting on behalf of millions of helpless human beings and join the fight against poverty. Get your work boots on and go.

For the injured, for the hurting, for the families of the lives lost: do something. Before you point the finger, take a good look at yourself. Can you afford to impose such judgment upon people when the greatest injustice known to man is taking place everyday while you sit and do nothing?

Caitlin Dickson, Brian and Grace Johnston, and Christopher Mmata died fighting against poverty. The Kenya 2012/13 team were injured in the same battle. It isn't easy but it's more than worthy and it's your turn, your time. Grab hold of their torches and go forwards, honour their memory by carrying the crosses they so faithfully shouldered. Stop talking, start doing.