Celebrate All the Love

Valentine’s Day is nearly here, and, as I expected, it’s bringing up some Feelings for me. But, along with the usual tinges of sadness that my life has not turned out quite the way I had planned, there’s something new this year.

I’m kind of irritated with the way “love” gets pigeonholed, made out to be just one certain thing.

Because while romantic love is a fine thing to celebrate, this time of year it gets put on a pedestal as being The Best Thing, The Ultimate Thing, The One True Thing. And it’s just not.

There are so many kinds of love.

Photo Credit: Flickr User Greencolander, Creative Commons

Photo Credit: Flickr User Greencolander, Creative Commons

I still haven’t found the words to adequately express my love for my nieces and nephews. They bring so much wonder, so much light, so much joy to our family. Yet the love I feel for them is a different kind of love than I feel even for my parents, who raised me and my two older siblings so well and demonstrate the beauty of a love that lasts because it’s worked at. And my siblings and their spouses–a kind of love that has endured years of pestering and teasing as the baby of the family. Then there’s the grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, all claiming and bestowing a unique kind of love. It’s surrounded me, even when I have not appreciated or recognized it, from even before the day I was born.

Beyond the love that blood ties together, there are the friends, the fellow churchgoers, the co-workers–people who, now that I no longer live with family, get the majority of my days in some form or another. I think I’ve finally reached the point that I can say with a bit of confidence that at least some of my friendships will be around for the long haul. Friends that (annoyingly) push me to be better, friends that make me laugh, friends that make me sit up and take stock of the type of person I’m becoming and whether it’s who I really want to be.

If that’s not love, I don’t know what is.

So this Valentine’s Day, I’m trying to not be blind. I may not have the exact kind of love I had hoped to find by this point, but my life is far from loveless.

In fact, if I had to pick just one–either romantic love or the myriad kinds in my life as it is right now–I’d take the kind of love I have. It is varied and frustrating and vibrant and maddening. It is real. It is alive. It is worthy to be noticed, to be celebrated. 

So I’ll celebrate all the love.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. What kinds of love can you celebrate?

Introducing: A New Title

For some time now, the title of this blog hasn’t fit quite right. The “recent” in “Musings of a Recent College Graduate” is less and less true every day, and my posts about such topics have grown scarce. There are still tensions I wrestle with, like missing the college world and being unsure of how I feel about this whole “working 40 hours a week” thing, but they look different than they used to. Like I have, the ways I wrestle have grown up a bit.

And so, it is finally time for a new name for this little blog. It’s not something I’ve approached lightly (considering I first wrote about this idea nearly 6 months ago), nor do I say with confidence that the name will never change again. For now though, I present:

The Art of Becoming

As I wrote back in 2013, “Becoming. There’s something hopeful about the word, like a promise of what will be, is going to be, but isn’t quite yet. Glimmers may be there, but not the whole.”

Because isn’t that what life really is? A continual process, with bits and pieces revealed here and there, but never quite the whole. Always, I am becoming. Whether it’s adjectives or titles that describe me, there is–or at least should be–some sort of change happening. It’s a process I’m only just beginning to appreciate, and one I hope I never outgrow.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

When Everyone’s Life Looks Good Except Your Own

Sometimes I get jealous of horses.

When they’re out and about, racing or pulling buggies, they get to wear blinders. According to Wikipedia, “Many racehorse trainers believe these keep the horse focused on what is in front of him, encouraging him to pay attention to the race rather than other distractions, such as crowds.”

I could use some blinders for life.

Photo Credit: Flickr User emilio labrador, Creative Commons

Photo Credit: Flickr User emilio labrador, Creative Commons

It is frighteningly easy for me to lose focus of what’s in front of me, of the goodness and beauty and light in my life, and instead look to the side, getting distracted by the flashy, clamoring, noisy crowds all around me. Then I see what they have, their neat, shiny little lives full of the things I wanted and planned for my own life, while mine just looks…well, the way it does. A little flat, the polish wearing off, rough around the edges. Suddenly, everyone’s life looks good except my own.

This comparison, this nagging envy, is like an old friend–or enemy, rather. We are far from strangers, certainly. Though I have learned there are ways to head it off, by avoiding certain places or groups or books or movies, there is no way to perfectly avoid it every single time. It is an insidious creature, lurking in from back hallways and hidden doorways, just out of sight but there at a moment’s notice.

And when it shows up, whether in small ways or looming large, threatening to overtake me, I remind myself to be content. I could make lists of the things in my life I am thankful for (nieces and nephews and friends and church and job and books and music and dessert), and while they fill my life with so much wonderful, they cannot completely fill the spaces that are left from the things I want but do not have. Contentment is something single people in particular are reminded of a lot, but even the word itself is deceiving. It sounds so gentle and calm, bringing to mind a hammock swaying in the light breeze coming off a peaceful lake.

But the truth is, contentment is a battle. It is a constant struggle, a back and forth, a conscious decision time and time again to put on some blinders. I must continually keep turning my head away from all the noise that flashes what I don’t have. I know that most people don’t really have it together the way it looks, but oh, those looks can be appealing.

Except it doesn’t make my life, it doesn’t make me any better to be constantly looking around, getting distracted by everyone else’s lives. They are not mine. 

The only life I have is the one I’m living.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. Have you ever needed to tell yourself to put on some blinders?

Your Church Isn’t Your Church (From the YALT Blog)

I’m a contributor for the blog of the Young Adult Leadership Taskforce (YALT), which is a ministry of the denomination I’ve grown up in and still consider myself, though perhaps somewhat loosely, a part of. Church is a topic I’ve thought and written about quite a bit, and it got me thinking about the way we talk about it–or more specifically, the way we talk about the specific church we go to.

Your Church Isn’t Your Church

We like to talk about things we own; “My car,” “My phone,” “My dog,” and so on. We even talk about church this way, saying “My church has a great youth program” or “Yesterday’s service at my church was really moving.” In a sense, this makes sense—it’s clunky to say “The church I attend” and also implies something less than a full commitment to it. But this terminology, and more importantly, the thought behind it, can become problematic when we start to believe that our church is, in fact, ours. When we start to think that the church we attend and serve in belongs to us, it’s not a far-fetched slide from there to begin thinking that the church’s primary purpose is to make our lives better, to fulfill our whims, and to conform to the way we want it to be.

In reality, whether we’re a staff member, volunteer, occasional attender, or otherwise, “our church” does not belong to us. It is merely a part of the Church, which belongs only and ever to God. And the Church doesn’t belong to us, we belong to it.

Keep reading at the YALT Momentum blog.

When You Love Your Laptop a Little Too Much

It started out like any Saturday. I had a leisurely morning, soaking in the luxury of being able to drink my coffee out of a regular mug while reading a good book. As the time neared for me to leave my house, I brought my laptop back downstairs, a glass of ice water in the other hand, as I’ve done countless times before. Except as I set both of these items down on the coffee table, a careless arm sent my glass flying, spewing water across my keyboard.

Photo Credit: Flickr User John.Karakatsanis, Creative Commons

Photo Credit: Flickr User John.Karakatsanis, Creative Commons

Instantly I was panic-stricken. I ran upstairs to grab a towel to dry off as much of the water as possible, shutting it down properly as I went. I furiously typed out a Facebook status on my phone, begging for help and advice of what to do in a situation such as this. I dumped brown rice on it and left it to sit, hoping for the best.

All it took was a carelessly placed glass of water, and immediately my mind was racing through all the ramifications. There went my hopes of watching episodes of Doctor Who on Sunday, my music choices suddenly became limited to what I have on my phone, and I began mentally checking my bank account to see what I could afford to spend on a replacement should it come to that.

A split second spill, and my disordered priorities became painfully obvious.

This story ends mostly happily–a few days later I turned on my computer to find it mostly back to normal (though missing a few functioning, crucial keys, resulting in this post being typed on my phone). Now that it’s back though, I have to force myself to reexamine my relationship with this chunk of plastic and metal and all that it’s come to mean to me. Listening to music, watching TV shows, and checking Facebook aren’t objectively bad things, so I’m not feeling the need to ditch my laptop completely. But I do need to realize that I sometimes allow these activities to get in the way of other, better ways to spend my time. It just would’ve been nice if it hadn’t taken a glass of water to make me realize it.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. Do you struggle with loving your laptop a little too much?

Looking for the New Things

As one often does at the beginning of a new year, I’ve been thinking about what 2015 may hold for me. Last year around this time I wrote myself a letter for the end of 2014, and while I’ve certainly gone some places and done some things in the last 365 days, much of that letter still rings true. My biggest hope for 2014 did not come to be, as is evidenced by the slew of singleness posts that made my list of top ones.

And hope? Well, I find that hope is often slippery. Easy to grasp for a moment, perhaps, but trickier to grab onto for the long haul.

Which is the beauty of a new year, I suppose. Learning to write a different number–2015–is an unavoidable reminder that something new has come. And if there can be new years, there can certainly be renewed hope–right?

I came across Isaiah 43:18-19 the other day, and I found the words so fitting I was inspired to attempt some artwork for my wall.

Behold, I am doing a new thing. 

I love the boldness of BeholdIt is booming, rich, inviting–see here, look, pay attention. You don’t want to miss this.

There is so much hope laced in those verses, hope I desperately want to cling to and claim for myself. I don’t know what that “new thing” might look like, though I certainly have my list of suggestions for God–but my biggest hope is that I have the eyes to recognize the newness even if it doesn’t look like I thought it would.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. What new things are you looking for this year?

Top Posts of 2014

Every year I want to start my “Top Posts” post with some line about how I can’t believe another year has gone by already–because it seems like they all go by so quickly. Which is a very cliche thing to say, but it doesn’t make it any less true.

I’m finding that years as a full-time working adult feel much different than ones when I was in school. It’s easy to count accomplishments when they come in the form of papers with a letter grade, tests with a percentage, classes by credits earned. Adult life doesn’t provide me such measurable benchmarks, meaning I have to look at things that are of value in a different way–in terms of life experience, lessons learned, new ways of thinking.

One of the beautiful parts of having a blog is that it provides a way for me to chronicle some of those things as they occur. Interestingly, as I looked at the top posts of this past year, many of them centered around singleness. Apparently not only is it a topic that I have a lot of thoughts and feels about personally, but others seem to as well. So, in no particular order, here are my top 7 posts of 2014.

Singleness, Desire, and Buying the Mixer

So this is not how I planned on getting a mixer. It’s not how I wanted to get my mixer.

Because it’s not just a mixer. It feels like a symbol of how my life is going differently than I had planned or hoped. It’s one of those little things that has slapped me in the face and reminded me that I’m single but would prefer not to be.

It’s irrational, I know, to be tying my purchase of a mixer to the fact that I am single. My relationship status should not be connected to a kitchen appliance.

Dear College Graduate

Sometimes being a college graduate sucks, and it’s okay that you think it sucks. Feel what you feel. Maybe you thrive on the excitement of the unknown, or maybe uncertainty can leave you curled up in a ball, watching Netflix for hours on end. Neither of these feelings are inherently bad, they’re just different. It’s better to admit the way graduating is making you feel than try to act another way because you see someone else reacting differently. These are crazy times, and no two people will handle it in the exact same way.

5 Tips for Interacting with Single People at Holiday Parties

1) First, and perhaps most importantly, being single should not be seen as weird or unusual (even though it may be, particularly in some environments). This can be hard to believe, but it’s true: Single people roam among us. They are not mythical beings like unicorns, though they may be as awesome as unicorns. Being single is fine. Treat it as normal, because it is.

I Stopped Reading My Bible

For the most part, right now, I have stopped reading my Bible.

It is a petty, passive aggressive way to handle what feels like God’s silence, and it is not the response I’d exactly recommend.

It is, however, my present truth.

All the Single Pastors?

As a single person, I find that church can sometimes be an isolating place. Many churches seem to be naturally oriented towards caring for families and married people, and although I don’t think any church would intentionally exclude single people, they may unintentionally do so.

You Are Not Disqualified

As I sat there, it hit me: I am not disqualified. 

Those messy thoughts and feelings and questions I have about God and following him do not disqualify me from serving him. They don’t disqualify me from hanging out with high school and middle schoolers, they don’t disqualify me from greeting people at church, they don’t disqualify me from being a Christian. 

And here’s the thing:

YOU are not disqualified either. 

The Enduring Fight of Singleness

One of the most difficult parts of being single is that I feel like I’m always fighting.

Fighting to be content.

Fighting to remember my life is now, not if or when I walk down the aisle.

Fighting to not compare.

Fighting to know there is meaning and purpose in this, the here and now.

Fighting to not be mad at God.

As a bonus post, this was also the year that my piece There Is More to Life Than Marriage was published at RELEVANT Magazine, so that’s kind of fun as well.

And to you, whether you’ve ready every post on this blog this year or this is your very first–thank you. I’m glad you’re here.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. Do you have any favorite posts from 2014, either from my blog or somewhere else?

The Fail-Proof Way to Keep CHRIST in CHRISTmas

Christmastime comes loaded with pressure. Pressure to host the perfect party, pressure to bake eight different kinds of cookies and then package them prettily, pressure to make Instagram-worthy memories with the people you love. And then, for Christians, there’s the pressure to keep the CHRIST in CHRISTmas.

Except no one actually has the fail-proof way to do that.

Reading the Christmas story and Advent devotionals, going to church, and praying are all ways to help keep Christ in Christmas, but even those can fail. Or maybe I’m just a particularly bad Christian. But I suspect I’m not the only one who has found that even the best of intentions to keep the focus of Christmas on Jesus’ birth sometimes don’t turn out the way we want them to.

Because here’s the thing: At the end of the day, we’re still human. We can try try try to keep Jesus at the heart of Christmas, but our intentions will always go askew.

Photo Credit: Flickr User Ben Husmann, Creative Commons

Photo Credit: Flickr User Ben Husmann, Creative Commons

Being human is the recipe for mixed-up intentions.

Which, when we let it, can lead to a lot of guilt. We beat ourselves up over getting excited about presents and looking forward to Christmas dinner, worry that our Christmas parties don’t reflect our Christian faith enough, and fret over singing along to songs about Santa. And, weaved among it all, we subtly fear our celebrations of Jesus’ birth aren’t good enough. We haven’t tried hard enough to bring him glory and to keep the focus on him through it all.

Occasionally it seems tempting to just quit trying to focus on Jesus, and instead throw up our hands, succumb to greedily wanting all the presents ever and yell at our family when they mess up the Christmas ham.

Or, we could realize there is no “fail-proof Christian way” to celebrate Christmas. As with many of the practices of Christianity, there’s not a perfect way to approach Christmas with completely pure intentions. I don’t think we need to take down the tree, return the presents, and give away all our food in order to keep Christ in Christmas.

Our outward actions this time of year may look much the same as the rest of the world, but our reasons for doing them can be drastically different. Perhaps it is in the doing of these actions that our intentions get purified.

Maybe, when we undertake these activities with the knowledge that God rejoices in our celebrations, we can do them in good faith that he knows our why of doing them. We can give—and receive—material gifts realizing that we haven’t earned any of it, and that we’d never, in all our strivings for good intentions, be able to earn the gift Christmas is really about. We can celebrate Christmas in assurance that we serve a God who is not out to make us earn our standing with him, but, because of Jesus, he sees us as good and clean anyway.

A God who loves us, Christmas parties, presents, mixed-up intentions and all.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. How do you handle the pressure to keep Christ in Christmas?

Advent Longing

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve sung “O Holy Night,” or heard it on the radio or overhead in the mall. The words are ones I know so well that I rarely even think about them as I sing.

But this year, they are striking me anew. As someone who loves the Christmas season and all its festive cheer, but also reveres the holy anticipation of Advent, I wondered if maybe this time of year would be what I’ve been looking for lately–that elusive “God feeling.” Because despite the commercialism that is so easy to get swept up in, there is still something sacred about this season.

Photo Credit: Flickr User ItzaFineDay, Creative Commons

Photo Credit: Flickr User ItzaFineDay, Creative Commons

I can’t say that God has showed up in a boisterous, ruckus fashion, clanging his way back into my life with shouts of “I’m here! I’ve been here! Can’t you see me?” In still, small ways though, I have been noticing–and appreciating–his goodness, and the words of “O Holy Night” so beautifully express my, and the world’s, longing for more.

A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

This year especially, it seems like the world is weary, on edge, waiting for all to be made right–and the song speaks to that as well. Because Jesus wasn’t born just to be a King and a Savior, though he’s those things too. He’s something much closer.

In all our trials born to be our friends.
He knows our need, our weakness is no stranger…

Even in the midst of the messes of our lives and of this world, at this time of year, I’m reminded of why this faith I hold so imperfectly, sometimes bewilderingly, but dearly–matters. I’m reminded why Jesus matters. He matters because he brings hope to weariness and brokenness and trials. Because he is making all things new, and reminding me afresh of the truth and beauty of these words.

Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother.
And in his name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
With all our hearts we praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we,
His power and glory ever more proclaim!
His power and glory ever more proclaim!

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. Are there any Christmas carols that are striking you anew lately?

Tell Me Your Story

For some time now, I’ve been wondering where God is. Objectively speaking, I know, but like I said about prayer–I believe God is there, but it hasn’t really felt like he is.

At Bible study recently, several women shared how God has been at work in their lives and in the lives of people around them. And I sat there thinking how glad I was. That God is at work in visible ways even if it’s not obvious in my own life right now, that these women are noticing where God is, and that they were willing to share their stories with us.

Photo Credit: Flickr User Pauline Mak, Creative Commons

Photo Credit: Flickr User Pauline Mak, Creative Commons

And this is why we need people, why we need community, why we need Church–so that others can show us faith when we have misplaced our own.

We need to tell these stories to remind ourselves and each other of the ways God shows up, even in the darkest of moments. We can’t always see those moments when we’re in the messy middle of one of our own stories, but maybe someone else can share the light they have seen. No two people will ever encounter the exact same circumstances, but they may have commonalities. There is power in the words “Me too.”

Of course, there are no guarantees that our own stories will get the same light that someone else’s did. But we may get glimmers, or light of a different kind entirely. Or maybe, for a very long time at all, no light at all. And that is when we so, so need people who will hold onto the hope when our hands cannot, and who will tell us their stories, with all of their wild goodness and pain and beauty.

The world needs your story. I need your story.

Stories are what carry us through and remind us of things beyond our own circumstances. They point us back to the God who is, the God who sees us even when we do not see him. Stories matter.

Will you tell me yours?

Til next time…

~Brianna!~