Monday, September 17, 2012

Sunday, September 9, 2012

On giving your all...


Last semester, I went to counseling.

I went in part because my best friend told me that I would be going and in part because when people asked how I was doing I wanted to be able to say, “Oh, I’m doing better, because I’m going to counseling!” And then, miraculously, people would say, “Oh, that’s great!” and leave me alone, which is probably one of my favorite things in the world. (Is “being left in solitude” a love language?)

Probably not.

In the months immediately following Matt’s death, I didn’t really know how to behave. I wasn’t sure if I should be crying all the time or if I should be faking happiness. I didn’t know if I should be aloof or perpetually in community.

Honestly, the amount I didn’t know was overwhelming.

However, in the midst of all that I didn’t know, counseling taught me something: My soul knows what it needs.

Or, as Caroline Myss says, “The soul always knows what to do to heal itself. The challenge is to silence the mind.”

The soul always knows.

Even on the days when I realize that I’ve been speaking about Matt in present tense. Even on the days when I cry and cry and cry. Even on the days when life is really just a fog.

My brain knows what it’s doing, and no matter what I rationally think would be better and no matter what other people might say is better, the bottom line is that subconsciously (and believe me, it is buried deep in the recesses of my mind) I know what I need.

And so I must learn to trust myself, which is sometimes utterly exhausting.

In “I Gave You All,” Mumford says this:

Rip the earth in two with your mind
Seal the urge which ensues with brass wires
I never meant you any harm
But your tears feel warm as they fall on my forearm

But close my eyes for a while
Force from the world a patient smile

Isn’t this the way of healing? We wrestle and cry and then realize that we’ve had enough, and for a while, we close our eyes. And rest.

Mumford goes on to say,

“If only I had an enemy bigger than my apathy I could have won”

This line rings true, doesn’t it? We know because we’ve all had days like this, days when we know we could have done more but the amount of apathy we feel is just too much.

But then I wonder, is our apathy really that big a deal? Maybe if our soul truly knows what it needs then our apathy can be a form of protection, a way to enable us to handle whatever is coming our way.

Or maybe apathy is really just laziness.

I don’t know.

However, I do know that it’s time for me to step back and reassess some things. This semester is different than last semester (Thank goodness!). This semester is new and fresh and I’m in a different place now.

Which means that right now, at least for awhile, I need to step away from the blog. At the moment, I need to spend some time reflecting by myself before I reflect with an audience.

I don’t know whether this hiatus will be for a week or a month or two months. I don’t know if it will be a total absence, or if Mumford Mondays will continue to appear.

I really don’t know much.

But you know what? I trust that my soul knows what it needs, and so I’m listening to it.

Close my eyes for a while
Force from the world a patient smile

But I gave you all

Today, may you be willing to take a step back and rest, knowing with all your heart that you have given your all.

Faint not,

Allison


Sunday, September 2, 2012

Dust Bowl Dance...


The young [woman] stands on the edge of [her] porch
The days were short and [her brother] was gone
There was no one in the town and no one in the field
The dusty barren land had given all it could yield
-       Mumford [Dust Bowl Dance]

Yepp, I changed four words in this song, but yes, this song is clearly about me being back in Abilene.

I’ve been kicked off my land at the age of [nineteen]
And I have no idea where else my heart could have been
I placed all my trust at the foot of this hill
And now I am sure my heart can never be still
So collect your courage and collect your horse
And pray you never feel this same kind of remorse
-       Still Mumford in “Dust Bowl Dance…”

As I drove around campus tonight, I found myself growing angry with God. (Don’t worry; I collected both my courage and my horse for this conversation.)

One minute I was driving and the next I was crying and asking God why I’m back at school, why Aziza’s mom is a drunk, and why Matt’s gone.

It was one of those moments when I hadn’t realized I was angry or bitter or even upset, but I was. I felt that I had been kicked off my land and sent back to Abilene, and I was utterly overwhelmed by the fact that while my body is here, my heart and my mind often are not. I’m not sure my heart can ever be still, because every single day my heart and my mind spend part of their time back with Aziza and other kids like her.

In addition, there’s the fact that school has started, the days are short, and my brother’s gone. I feel as if I’m handling it well and that I’m healing, but nothing can change the fact that he isn’t here and that he’s not coming back.

And so my grief made an appearance in my argument with God.

Mumford continues:

Seal my heart and brake my pride
I’ve nowhere to stand and now nowhere to hide
Align my heart, my body, my mind
To face what I’ve done and do my time

This is the way of God, isn’t it? First He seals the open wounds of our hearts and souls. Then he gently helps us to slow down, step back, and realize that we are far too proud, too arrogant, and too confident of how much we know and understand.

It’s a terrifying experience, opening yourself up to God and realizing that you are completely exposed and vulnerable for Him to realign everything—your heart, your body, your mind.

But it’s worth it, because it is only when we allow God to realign us that we find ourselves in any sort of line at all.

I apologized to God for the way in which I spoke to Him. I’m afraid I was neither kind nor respectful, but I think that He met me where I was, right in the midst of my confusion and frustration and sadness.

Thank the Lord that, as Richard Sibbes says, “There is more mercy in Christ than sin in us.

Today, may you allow God to align your heart, your body, and your mind.

Faint not,

Allison

Thursday, August 30, 2012

On conformity...


This summer I inadvertently did a social experiment on myself.

It was inevitable I suppose. I was on a campground in a remote Ukrainian village. A lot of variables were removed from the scenario, setting myself up perfectly to learn something critical:

Marketing has the ability to destroy the way we see ourselves. Or at least, the way I see myself.

You see, over the course of the summer I began to notice a lessening investment in the way I looked. Hair, makeup, outfits. None of it mattered.

Other things mattered: prayer, discipline, relationships. My priorities gradually shifted, and for the first time since I can remember, I had complete and total peace with the way I looked.

Although I noticed this phenomenon occurring, I couldn’t pinpoint the cause, only the effect.

Until last week.

I was at the grocery store when it clicked. As I approached the checkout line, I looked up and saw magazine after glossy magazine plastered with thin, muscular, perfectly photo-shopped women.

And I felt inferior. I felt insufficient, ugly, and in desperate need to look…better.

Which is when I realized that for the past ten weeks, I’d been ad free. I spent that time on a compound free from TV ads, bulletin boards, and magazine covers, and in that time, I figured out that there was nothing wrong with what I saw in the mirror.

But then I came back, and the huge question in the back of my mind came back and began asking me once again whether or not I was good enough, fit enough, or pretty enough.

The thing that terrifies me about this phenomenon is that I wouldn’t have considered myself a particularly vain or appearance-focused person before I left. In fact, if you’d asked me I probably would have told you that appearance is pretty far down on my priority list.

However, the fact of the matter is that here, in a world plastered with perfection, appearance does matter.

And here, in a society that is screaming that I am not good enough, I have to look beyond society to discover why I have value.

Sometimes things are easier when you can free yourself from external factors, but unfortunately, God doesn’t call us to take the easy way.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:2)

The pattern of this world says that we are not beautiful, not valued, not enough, and the overwhelming temptation that is posted all around us is to conform.

But God says no.

God says that there is more, that there are different priorities, that we are, in fact, enough.

Because we are His, and if we allow Him to renew our minds, He will transform us.

Today, may you be open to the transformation to which God is calling you.

Faint not,

Allison

Monday, August 27, 2012

Pixar and the Holy Spirit...


While I was in the cocoon they call camp, I missed out on a lot of exciting things—The Dark Knight Rises, the fact that Taylor Swift is now singing teenage pop, and Brave. As a result, I’ve spent the past couple weeks playing catch up and getting myself back to exactly how behind I normally am on the world of entertainment and media.

While it paled in comparison to The Dark Knight Rises, I took a couple of key things from Brave:

1. Pixar apparently Facebook creeped all over my roommate and decided she was so awesome they’d make a movie about her.
It's uncanny isn't it?
She's going to love having this picture up.

2.  Someone forgot to mention in the trailer—SPOILER ALERT—that the movie was about humans turning into bears. Who knew?

3. We can draw lessons about the Holy Spirit from a lot of places.

In the movie, the heroine wanders off into the woods and finds herself being guided by tiny, mysterious lights. Just as she reaches one light, it disappears and is replaced by another just a few feet in front of her. The heroine continues in this way, chasing light after light through the woods. As she runs, she begins questioning her end goal and the validity of the trail she’s following. Because she can only see a few feet ahead of her, she’s uncertain that she’ll end up where she wants to be.

I don’t know about you, but when I pray for discernment or guidance, I’m really asking for a step-by-step road map to my end goal. I want to see the entire path illuminated by a floodlight and, if it’s not too much trouble, I’d really appreciate an app that leads me straight to my end goal.

However, a lot of times that’s not the way God works.

In my experience, God takes us on journeys one step at a time. He shows us where to step and then once we make it to our first landmark, he illuminates the next step.

Sometimes as we progress along the path before us, we grow frustrated and we yearn to see to the end of the path, but I firmly believe that God gives us no more than we can handle and in this way prepares us for whatever lies at the end of our journey.

As anyone with a Pinterest knows, “Life is about the journey, not the destination,” and as many who read the Bible know, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.” (Psalm 119:105)

God gives us a lamp, not a floodlight.

He gives us what we need, not what we necessarily want.

And slowly but surely, just as we are able to handle what comes next, He illuminates the next step.

Today, may you trust that the tiny lights are enough.

Faint not,

Allison
Well said, Coldplay.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

On thistles and weeds...


There’s a parable Jesus tells about seeds and a sower. Basically, the sower throws a bunch of seeds on the ground and only a few eventually grow into plants. Some of the baby plants are eaten by birds, and some don’t have enough soil. A few are scorched by the sun and several are choked by the weeds around them as they grow.

And that’s when I think that the deterrents far outweigh the seeds’ abilities to grow and be successful.

In their song, “Thistle and Weeds,” Mumford says this:

Spare me your judgements and spare me your dreams
Cause recently mine have been tearing my seams
I sit alone in this winter clarity which clouds my mind
Alone in the wind and the rain you left me
It's getting dark darling, too dark to see
And I'm on my knees, and your faith in shreds, it seems

Corrupted by the simple sniff of riches blown
I know you have felt much more love than you've shown
And I'm on my knees and the water creeps to my chest

Sometimes I think we as college students start to feel this way. We’re looking at our year or our life plans and we’re completely overwhelmed by the fact that our dreams may be devoured by competition or may not have enough of a backbone, and we worry that once we’re under pressure our precious desires and hopes will be eviscerated by the heat of those who are higher than us or even choked by our peers.

And we’re left on our knees, overwhelmed by the water creeping to our chests.

There’s so much we want to do, so much we want to be. And so much that could get in the way.

But then there’s the other seed, the seed that falls on good soil.

And that seed produces a crop.

Did you read that?

The seed that hits good soil grows…and then keeps on growing, keeps on reproducing, keeps on succeeding.

Pursuing dreams is a gamble, and yes, there are big risks. But there are also great rewards, because the crop could be a hundred times what was planted.

Mumford says it well.

But plant your hope with good seeds
Don't cover yourself with thistle and weeds
Rain down, rain down on me

Invest yourself in good things, things that actually matter. The risk is great, but so is the reward. Don’t allow yourself to be choked by your peers or anything else. Know what you want and go after it with all your heart.

Even when it’s raining.

Today, may you fight through the thistles and weeds to pursue your dreams.

Faint not,

Allison

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A little bit of Mother Teresa...


There is a light
in the world, a healing spirit,
more powerful than any darkness
we may encounter.

We sometimes lose
 sight of this force,
When there is so much suffering,
too much pain.

Then suddenly,
the spirit will emerge
through the lives of
ordinary people who
care and answer in
extraordinary ways.

   Mother Teresa

I have very little to say today, so I decided to just take Mother Teresa’s words and add a quick, long overdue “thank you.” Thank you to everyone who sent me money, who wrote me notes and emails, and who prayed for me this summer.

Part of what makes the church beautiful is the ability of God to use His people to accomplish the extraordinary. In many cases, God enables His people to shine a light into the deep darkness of grief, poverty, or anything else that throws a deep shadow over life.

I think many of you knew before I did how much healing this summer would provide for me, and so once again, I want to say “thank you” for helping to send me on this journey towards healing.

Today, may you continue to allow God to move you towards extraordinary actions.

Faint not,

Allison