Wednesday, September 25, 2013

what would you say to the childhood you?

September is blog month for Compassion, and in "true Mandy fashion" I've procrastinated. Despite me putting it off, though, I hope you can still see the importance of hopping over to the Compassion website. Their goal this month is to see 3,160 kids sponsored, but that's not all they do. I hope you'll take a minute to check out what they do and see how you can be involved in changing someone's life. Who knows--you might even change yours in the process!

That said, the first assignment for blog month was to write a letter to my childhood self. I was challenged to do something similar to this a while back, except it was to the teenaged me. If you want to check that one out you can read it over here. Okay, so I've stalled long enough...

To the little girl who has so much going for her, yet is still terribly unsure of herself--

First of all, I'm not going to tell you who this is from because you would never believe me. You're way too grounded in reality for that, even sometimes when you should be chasing dreams. So let's just say I'm someone with a vested interest in you and a decent idea of the kind of person you'll grow up to be. For that matter, though, anyone who knows your parents could figure that one out--you're a pretty decent mix of the two of them, and if you turn out half as caring as either of them you'll be doing pretty good.

I know you're not big on taking advice from people, especially from someone who hasn't proven herself to you, but I hope this will be one of those rare times when you'll listen anyways. Or at least humor me and give the impression that you're paying attention. You're pretty good at that.

Do you realize just how amazing your family is? No, really--think about it for a minute. You have parents you can admire, parents who have stuck together through everything and will stay together through times that would split other people apart. They love God and love you, and that's a pretty incredible blessing. They have always sacrificed willingly so you could have and do just about anything you've ever wanted, and they always will--even when you're grown. I know you want to think you can do everything on your own, but the truth is sometimes you can't. How incredible is it to have parents who are always there to help you, even when you let your stubborn pride get in the way of asking for help?

And you know that brother of yours? He's one of a rare breed--an older brother who actually enjoys spending time with his little sister, who isn't embarassed by talking to her in front of his friends, and who even invites her to come along. I know this sounds crazy, but enjoy him picking on you. Believe it or not, there will come a time when you'll miss it. Pay attention when he teaches you to throw--and take--a punch, and believe him when he says it's his job to toughen you up. He's gonna teach you a lot of lessons in life, and some of them will be painful, but you should pay attention.

Then there's your little sister, you know, the one you prayed for like your mom is quick to remind you. I know she gets on your nerves and in your space some times, and she seems to make it her goal to drive you crazy. I promise, though, you'll both outgrow it and even become friends. There's nothing like a sister. She'll know you background, your weaknesses, your idiosyncrasies--and love you anyways. Revel in watching her blossom, and try not to laugh too hard when she wants to be a cheerleader.

Speaking of cheerleading, you're probably imagining all the wonderful things that will come from being a cheerleader. It really will be great for you, but it won't be without its share of heartbreaks--nothing in life is. Have fun with it, but know it isn't everything. Maybe focus a bit more on just enjoying every aspect of school. It would be wonderful if you could take the time to learn how to study, too. It really would come in handy.

I know you feel a bit out of place in life, like you can't really find your niche. You want to do big things, world-changing things, but you don't really know how. Hang in there, and you'll eventually find your spot. It will take a lot longer than you would ever imagine and you'll be in and out of lots of different spots along the way, but you'll get there.

Most of all, though, hold on to your faith. You have been given a firm foundation, and it is more important than you can imagine. Everything else in your life may get shaken, but you'll be able to face it as long as your faith stays firm. Actually take the time to memorize those verses and passages because it's pretty great when they can pop into your head just when you need them.

Life is hard and crazy and painful and beautiful. Enjoy all of it. 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

when you're not making progress

Follow. Back in January, I wrote about how that was my "one word" for 2013.

I have to admit, there are certain connotations to the word follow, not the least of which is the idea that if you are going to be following someone you're going somewhere. You're moving forward, making progress--
   or at least just plain moving.

What happens, though, when you are standing still? Or more than that, how do you follow when you've been knocked flat on your face?

Everyone talks about the "Christian walk." I don't know about you, but when I hear that phrase it makes me think of an evening stroll down a well-beaten path. You know, one of those walks where there's plenty of time to look around and soak in the sights and sounds, to feel the gentle breeze against your face as you catch the beauty of a sunset. Maybe even throw in some woodland creatures scampering nearby--you know, Snow White style.
(c) Disney

I've found, though, that that phrase is misleading. Lots of times I find myself not moving at all, standing still instead of making progress. When I am moving, it seems a lot more like a climb up a mountain, somewhere I'm having to use a machete to hack out the trail myself. Sometimes you get to walk easy once you reach the top, but it seems like it's in those times that I stop paying attention to where I'm going and end up walking off a cliff.

I find myself at the bottom then, broken and still, wanting to follow but unable to move forward.
     Have you ever been there?

A friend recently went bouldering (Stick with me here--I know this seems like a major change of topics, but I promise it ties in!). She's started rock climbing, a sport I've always found amazing. How thrilling is it to work your way to the top where you get to stand and look out over the world below, to see Creation in all its glory? I haven't asked her, but I imagine she thinks along those same lines.

The thing is, it takes a lot of strength in muscles we don't usually use for strength to be able to climb safely and effectively. So, one way to train is to go bouldering, where you stay low to the ground and move sideways.

She wasn't incredibly fond of the idea of staying on the same level instead of getting to climb higher. She's an amazingly insightful woman, though, and this is what she had to say (hope you don't mind, Rona!):

" looks and feels like youre not going anywhere. routes are impossible and you keep falling on your butt.

but you land on soft cushions.
and though you cant perceive it, youre getting stronger and making way more progress than on the actual rock wall.

#grace #NewLevels #SometimesItFeelsJustLikeThis"

Being stuck at one level is hard. You want to follow, to climb higher so you can stand at the top of the mountain and look back over all you've accomplished, all you've conquered.

The thing is, sometimes it is best to be stuck
to be broken and unable to climb
to see just how weak you really are
and how little you can really accomplish.

"But He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me." (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Though it's frustrating and painful to be broken, sometimes we learn the most when we feel stuck, when we don't think we're making progress.

Sometimes, follow means to be content in the still times. 

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