Post 31

The end of October has arrived, and so has the end of The 31 Amazing Days Challenge. Not that I intend on ceasing to try to “live a life that doesn’t suck,” but I won’t be posting every single day anymore.

A blog a day for a month: harder than it initially sounded, yet I was surprised by how much easier it became with time. It became a habit, one that I had to plan ahead for and make slight adjustments to my day as necessary. There were days when I absolutely didn’t want to do it, didn’t think I could do it because I had nothing to say and simply wanted to go to sleep, but I wrote anyway. Sometimes the posts written in that state turned out much better than I expected…and sometimes they stunk.

Has my life dramatically change since I undertook this little challenge? No. Most of the time, I didn’t intentionally do something specific in order to write about it later, but my attentiveness to the little things in the everyday increased. Maybe that was the point all along.

 

Some highlights from this past month of blogging…

“Single,” Not “Incomplete”

Disclaimer: I’m a Mess

I Need Church

Weddings and Melancholy

My Student Loans Are Teaching Me About Jesus

Hi, I’m a Writer

I Hate My Smartphone

I Listen to Mumford and Sons (And This is Why)

Expectations Vs. Reality

It will be a bit strange to not post tomorrow…but freeing at the same time. My brain needs a little bit of space from blogging for a few days.

 

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

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Life is Now

Today I’m honored to be guest posting at Into the Mud, the blog of Christine Jeske. She and her husband Adam wrote the book This Ordinary Adventure, which is where the 31 Amazing Days Challenge idea came from. Here’s an excerpt from my piece:

 

Throughout the month of October, I’ve been learning to be more aware of what I do throughout my day. I’ve been searching for bits of amazing, partly to write about, but also to glean more appreciation for my life.

Often though, I’ve found myself making excuses for why I haven’t been more intentional about creating amazing moments. I’ve graduated from college, so in theory I’m equipped to be an active participant in the adult world, at least when it comes to the workplace. But it doesn’t always feel that way for the rest of life. This phase of life feels like an in-between time.

I catch myself thinking, “Once this next thing happens, that’s when my real life will start.” Whether it’s moving out of my parents’ house, finding a boyfriend, getting a full-time job—one of those things will be the catalyst for “real life” beginning. Where I am now is not the story I would have written if I had authored my own life. Sometimes, I am sure that once God gives me the go ahead to move on to the “next thing,” that’s when things will get better, and my “real life” will begin. Where I am now? It’s just a holding pattern, a temporary stop on my way to real life.

read the rest here.

And tomorrow brings October to a close, and an end to my 31 days of blogging. Reflections to come.

 

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

The Writer’s Enemy

And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt. -Sylvia Plath

The end of October is quickly approaching, which means my mission to post every day is nearly over. Throughout this month of writing, I’ve experienced the reality of Sylvia Plath’s words.

“Everything in life is writable about…”

My daily routine has not changed much this month, but my attentiveness to it certainly has. Knowing I’m going to be writing later in the day has forced me to be observant and think, “Could I write about this?” Usually, I come up with something I could say about it. That’s part of why this quote from Sylvia appeals to me so much–many writers I enjoy reading have lived overseas, gone on road trips, been married and/or divorced, lived for more years than I have, lived in huts, adopted children, etc., but that doesn’t somehow make my own life experiences not worth writing about. Mine are just different.

Which brings me to the second part I identify with so much…

“The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” YUP. When I don’t feel like writing, feel like I have nothing to say, and am certain there is no point in writing anyway, I can usually trace it back to self-doubt. Much of my self-doubt tends to be rooted in comparison to those writers who have so much more life experience than me. I’m fortunate that I haven’t yet had anyone tell me, “You shouldn’t be writing because you haven’t done enough,” but I wouldn’t be surprised if that occurs. It’s perhaps the biggest block I face when writing.

My life doesn’t seem to have nearly enough angst, adventure, or upheaval to be interesting enough to write about.

But it doesn’t need to.

 

“Everything in life is writable about…”

 

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

 

p.s. Wes Molebash wrote a great piece that appeared on Prodigal Magazine entitled, “Your Life is Boring, But You Can Still Write Good Stories.”

Love is Hard (A Post from the Past)

About a year ago I posted this piece I wrote for a class I was in at the time. Tonight in one of the Bible studies I’ve been attending, we talked about how it is sometimes difficult to accept God’s love. Instead of trying to rewrite what I’ve already written, it makes the most sense to re-post this piece, “Love is Hard.”

 

“God’s love will never change us if we don’t accept it.” ~Donald Miller, Blue Like Jazz

My belief in God has been ingrained into me. For this I am thankful, but it doesn’t make believing certain truths any easier.

The truth of his love, for instance.

On a semi-regular basis I find myself wondering how a God so big, who knows so much and knows me so well, could possibly love me. How, despite my constant failings and forgetfulness of his faithfulness, he is always there loving me and welcoming me back.

It’s not as though I try to convince myself otherwise. I don’t have a running commentary in my head saying, “You fool, how could God possibly love you, amidst all your mess and distractedness and temper tantrums?” There are days when the thought crosses my mind, but in general I do better than that. It’s just that believing God loves me unwaveringly, to my very core, forever and ever with no amen…it sounds absurd.

There comes a terrifying problem if I can somehow allow myself to allow God’s love to encompass my entire being. To feel and begin to understand a love that strong shouldn’t, and arguably can’t, leave me the same way that I am. If God has seen fit to love me so much, how dare I think I should do anything but love others? What room do gossip, doubt, worry, fear, and envy have in the life of one who is loved beyond all reason?

Blame would come in handy at this point. Some sort of defective doctrine in the churches or Christian schools I have attended, maybe a Bible study gone awry, that somehow gave me this drop of doubt that God might not love me as fully the Bible seems to suggest. Unfortunately, there is no place to lay blame. These organizations and events I have been a part of have done nothing but drive into me, “God loves you, God loves you, God loves you. Always and always.”

As far as back story goes, mine is fortunately trauma free. No broken home or abuse. Only the typical tales of middle and high school drama, of feeling left out and not knowing who I was. Nothing large enough to point a figure at, hand over the blame of my feeling unloved to.

My family, once again, provides no scapegoat. As the daughter of two parents who have been together for nearly thirty years, sister of two siblings who are each happily married, aunt to three of some of the most precious children you may ever meet, and granddaughter, cousin, and niece to an extended family that all claim and practice Christianity, they have left me no wounds large enough to notice. Although my parents and I butted heads when they refused to let me stay up past 9, or see a PG-13 movie at the age of 12, it was all rooted in love. Love that tucked me in as a child, woke me up for church as a teenager, and that welcomes me and my dirty laundry home on weekends.

Tales of my friendships run a slightly different course. Here I could perhaps drop off some of the blame of my love-doubting, as friends whose words of love fell flat as they wandered away. But although there are scars that remain from such episodes, there are too many nights of laughter, deep talks, baking, movie watching, and pure love for me to feel comfortable blaming it on this. Friends have left, it’s true, but enough have stayed. Enough have allowed their shirts to be my tissue, their ears to be my sounding block, their arms to be my blanket, that I can’t dump blame on those few that have wounded me.

Where, then, does my inability to deeply believe God’s love come from? Not from my circumstances, not from people. Maybe from the brokenness that can be seen the world over, but that feels too easy. Original sin shouldn’t be left entirely to blame for my love-doubt.

Perhaps it boils down to the sheer fact that being loved is hard. There is an element of fear in allowing myself to be loved completely by God. If I am loved that much, I must be better than I think I am. I must be capable of being a better person tomorrow than I am today.

Because God’s love is too much to leave me the same. Although I have experienced human love, it is only a fraction of what it is like to be loved by God. His love never ends, never fails, is all-knowing yet all-encompassing. It has the power to rebuild, change, and shape me into a better version of me than I ever thought possible.

And a love that strong…it has the power to save, but it also has the power to crush. William Blake said we must “Learn to bear the beams of love.” A love so amazing, so divine, that it has the power to change everything I know.

Perhaps, most frightening of all, me.

 

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

Grace and Price Tags

Grace ended today.

Not grace as in God’s, because thankfully, that never ends.

The grace from my student loans, however…that ended today.

Having to take out loans was something I struggled a lot with; I once joked I was going to run away and join the circus instead of starting another semester of school, because I wasn’t sure I should take out the money. (None of my skills lend themselves particularly well to circus life, however, so I did end up finishing)

Perhaps one of my biggest complaints is that the systems feels broken. I paid all this money for a degree that will theoretically help me get a better job, then will spend bunches of years working the job to pay off the loans I took out to get the education I needed to get the job.

When I am tempted to begin a cycle of griping and “How will I ever pay this back?” and moaning, it is good for me to stop.

 

Look at the pictures that adorn my walls, pictures of friends I wouldn’t have met otherwise, pictures of love and fun and laughter

Flip through my journals, reminding me of the good times and bad I experienced in college that shaped me.

Scan the books that now adorn my shelves, rereading words on God and communicating and grace and words.

Skim the notes I took in class, picking up starred bits that hit me anew today and remembering professors’ quotes.

Remember the professors and staff who taught and encouraged me and invested in my life.

 

Oh.

My diploma is not made of 24 karat gold and studded with diamonds, as seems fitting considering the price tag of my education.

But when I am in despair over my loans, it is good for me to remember the things no price tag can be affixed to.

Relationships.

Life lessons.

Laughter.

Knowledge.

Community.

Love.

Faith.

 

Two weeks before graduating, I wrote an “I’ll miss you” to my college, and I’m thankful I did. It is a good reminder of the valid reasons my heart broke a little as I received my diploma, and now again as I square off with my pile of debt.

About a week ago I wrote, “I took out loans to help get me through college; I never thought they’d teach me about Jesus.” Though I would never recommend taking out loans to better understand Jesus and the concept of grace, I am reminded of the intangible takeaways from my college experience.

There are some things no price tag fits on.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

 

Unchanging

A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments, by Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, David Brown.

I acquired this book today. Some family members are moving to a smaller space, and are getting rid of all sorts of books and things. My great-grandma gave it to my great-grandpa years and years ago.

The book is old enough that it doesn’t have a publication date or ISBN number. Pages are nearly falling out, and the book smells old, of knowledge and years gone by. Its cover, I imagine once a deep red, is faded to dusty pink on the edges, and scattered with spots.

If my great-grandparents were around to read it though, they’d find the words have remained unchanged.

And that’s what I love about it.

I have other commentaries on my shelves, and have used other ones as I studied for my Bible and Theology major. Some are written in “modern day language that everyone can understand” and may claim to be “updated, better than ever!” than this tattered one that now graces my room.

At the core though, they are are the same.

Studying the Bible, learning its truths and teaching them to its readers.

I think it’s one of the parts of Christianity that appeals to me–these are not new teachings, created by someone in my lifetime or not much before it.

These are time-tested truths and a way of living, following a God who does not change.

And for someone who does not take well to change and struggles with uncertainty…an unchanging God is quite a comfort.

 

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

 

“Single,” Not “Incomplete”

At work yesterday, I ended up on a bunch of different church websites. Many had Meet the Staff pages, some with interview-style questions and fun facts.

On one church’s site,  ”How I met my spouse” was the second question on each staff bio. Not a bad question.

One of the staff had listed, “When I find her, I’ll let ya know  .” A clever answer to what could be an awkward, painful question.

I don’t know any of these people, and I’ll likely never meet them. Maybe this guy is 100% content in his singleness, every single day, and was looking for a chance to use his clever answer.

Perhaps I’m reading too much into the placement, and am a little oversensitive about this because I went to a wedding recently, and wrote of how doing so brings up a lot of emotions.

But the “How I met my spouse” question being listed second seems to suggest something about how the church views marriage, and in turn, their single staff member. “How I met my spouse” appears above “Spiritual Gifts” or “How you got into ministry” or “Favorite Bible passage.”

But I think it points to a larger problem within Christian thought: Why is there often a subtle implication that we are incomplete until we can answer the question, “How did you meet your spouse?”

There are days I feel incomplete due to my singleness, but that does not make it true. Using the Bible as a guide, I find nothing that implies that I am somehow less, or my life has not yet begun because I am not married.

Paul writes of marriage and singleness in I Corinthians 7, ending the chapter with, “But if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord. In my judgment, she is happier if she stays as she is—and I think that I too have the Spirit of God.”

He seems to be saying here that though the Spirit of God can be found in marriage, it can also be found in singleness. There is nothing in the chapter, or in the way that Paul lived his life, to imply he was somehow incomplete and less effective as a servant of God because he was not married. Paul also does not condemn the idea of marriage, nor do I intend to–if I could plan my life, I’d be married right now, or at least in a relationship that was strongly headed that way. In any of the versions of my life I have imagined, none of them have included being single for the rest of my life.

But just because I am not married yet does mean I am incomplete.

The church whose staff pages I mentioned is probably a wonderful church. When they created those pages on the website, they probably didn’t give much thought to the arrangement of the questions…which is kind of the problem. Having “How I met my spouse” as the second question, when one of the people does not have an answer to that question, seems to imply he is missing an element that is crucial to complete his profile. Even unconsciously, Christian circles often subtly imply that singleness implies incompleteness. I strongly disagree.

I’m not anti-marriage. From what I’ve seen, heard, read, and more, marriage is an incredible gift that will, I hope, someday teach me more about love, sacrifice, struggle, relationships, and God than I thought possible. In some ways, I imagine it may complete a part of me I didn’t know was possible–but I don’t think that means that right now, a piece of me is missing.

Maybe marriage brings about another level of completeness; a different kind of completeness for those who are supposed to get married, but not completeness in a sense that something is missing for those who are not. As Paul says, “I think that I too have the Spirit of God.”

I am single, not incomplete.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. What do you think? If you’re single, do you ever feel that it’s implied you’re “incomplete”? If you’re married, am I completely missing something here?

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Input/Output

In elementary school I remember using the idea of an “input/output” machine in math. Our workbooks had pictures like the following:

As we learned basic math, we filled in the missing numbers. The input number would be provided, as well as how “the machine” changed the number, and we had to figure out the output number. It made sense to me, and though I don’t like math much anymore, at the time it seemed fun.

 

Currently, I’m involved in 3 Bible studies–2 that meet weekly, and 1 that meets every other week.

Admittedly, it’s a bit much, but they happened to all be on topics or books I found interesting, and I didn’t want to miss out on any of them. It doesn’t hurt that many of the friends I might normally hang out with while I’m living with my parents aren’t around right now, so Bible studies seemed like a good option for filling my time.

They’ve become much more than a way to fill my time though. These Bible studies become a perfect example of how the input/output machine isn’t just for elementary school math; it’s for life.

 

This past summer I had a lot of free time, and I didn’t use it well at all. The quality “input” into my life was severely lacking. Even looking back at my blog posts from the summer months, I can see the truth in this. Most of them had a more negative tone and far fewer mentions of God and my faith.

Attending 3 Bible studies has drastically changed my “input” this fall. I read the chapters for each one, look up Bible verses, and have lively, thought-provoking discussions on a variety of topics; but they spend much more time in my head than the time it takes to simply perform those tasks. Which is the way it’s supposed to be.

Is my “output,” in terms of the way I live my life, changing drastically because of this? I don’t know. But I can tell the difference in where my mind wanders, and most definitely in the posts I write. It’s much harder to ignore God when I’m reading, thinking, and talking about him on a regular basis. The input has gotten better, both in terms of quality and quantity, and the output has as well.

Participating in 3 Bible studies is a bit extreme–I probably won’t do it again. But at this point in my life, there are a lot worse things I could be doing with my time.

 

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

More Than A Mess

Yesterday I declared that I’m a mess, and it’s true. Most areas of my life are in some form of disarray or uncertainty, and freak outs and meltdowns have become fairly common.

However, I’m much more than a mess.

Not because of anything I do, however.

My own capabilities qualify me primarily, and perhaps only, to be a mess right now.

But I’m not. I don’t walk around continually crying or ranting about how I don’t know what I’m doing with my life. I can truthfully say that most (though not all) of the time, I’m fairly content in each moment; only sometimes do all my doubts and uncertainties reduce me to freak out or meltdown mode.

The only way I can credit this is to grace. Only through God’s grace am I able to maintain some sort of perspective on my life, some sort of healthy hope in the future and whatever may come.

Because God doesn’t look at me and see a mess.

He looks at me with love, compassion, and caring.

He sees someone who matters.

He sees a life ripe with potential.

He sees plans for loveliness.

He sees a child who belongs to him.

 

He sees much better things in me than I see in myself.

I can proclaim my mess, be honest about it, and share the reality of it with others. But I am not stuck in my mess. I am much more than my mess.

And for that, I am incredibly grateful.

 

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

 

Disclaimer: I’m a Mess

If asked to introduce myself, it would probably go something like this:

“Hi, I’m Brianna. I graduated from college in April, and I work part time at a Christian publishing company in social media and marketing. I also work part time as a teaching assistant for 2 freshmen English classes at Kuyper College. Right now I live with my parents, I’m actively involved with my church, and I hang out with friends as often as I can. Many of my friends aren’t around right now, but I’m looking forward to them being back, and I keep pretty busy.”

Doesn’t look too bad, all typed up like that. From a cursory read through or introduction, it sounds like I have life fairly together right now.

Really though, I don’t. Browse any of my recent posts, and I hope you will quickly understand that I don’t have it together. My introductory paragraph doesn’t tell you about my uncertainty, my dislike of change, the deep ache I feel and the tears that spring to my eyes when I think about how much I miss my friends who are far way, the way I wish God had seen fit to bring a guy into my life by now, the piles of student debt I have to start paying off within the week, and my general fear and anxiety in regards to not really having any idea what I’m doing with my life.

When I introduce myself, I feel like I should be passing out little business cards.

“Disclaimer: This girl is a mess.”

I’m not trying to be self-deprecating or asking for sympathy or pity; I’m simply telling the truth. We are far too good at pretending to be put together on the outside when we are falling apart on the inside. Perfection at the human level does not exist, and the illusion of it can be so irritating; so why do we work so hard to perpetuate the myth?

Because you’re a mess too. Maybe (and I hope for your sake) not as much of one as I often feel, but there is likely at least one, even if its small, area of your life that’s a mess too.

If we all talked about it a little more, maybe we’d all begin to realize that no one is as perfect as they may initially seem. Handing out disclaimer cards declaring “I’m a mess” when meeting new people is probably not the best way to go about it, but declaring it, even if only to yourself at first, might be a place to start.

I’ll go first.

Hi, I’m Brianna, and this is my declaration: Most of my life is a mess.

How about you?

 

Til next time…

~Brianna!~