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.