Be Still.


Do you ever have those days where you have to do a double take at the clock, because you can’t believe it’s 5 already? Or where one second it’s Monday and the next it’s Thursday, or one moment the leaves on the trees are just starting to change color and the next it’s already almost November? Too often I find myself rushing through life, from one task to the next, from one day to another, from my car to work to home to the store.

Why do I find myself always in a hurry? I am rarely late anywhere-I leave myself plenty of time to get ready in the morning, I have an hour long lunch break, and I have a very short commute to work (or to the store, or coffee, or anywhere, for that matter). My typical lunch routine is to rush home, start making lunch, turn on the TV, check my Instagram and email, respond to texts, feed the cat, and stuff food in my face-but after rushing through all this I have plenty of time to spare.

I think that our world has taught us that it’s good to be in a hurry and that we shouldn’t waste any of our precious time, that it’s necessary-no, expected-to book ourselves for every hour of every day. We’re told that we must capitalize on our time and there is always something to do, that there is someone who is beating us by doing more, and that someone is getting ahead of us because they’re not resting and we are. We think of ourselves as ‘lazy’ when we take time to ourselves, or at least I do.

This is what the world is telling us-but that’s not at all what God is telling us. He tells us that it’s good for us to rest (that’s what Sunday was originally for, right?) and that we should take time to be still.

This week I have started to drive to and from work with the stereo off. I love blasting music in my car and singing at the top of my lungs, I enjoy listening to the radio in the morning, and I feel like I always need to catch up on the news. But this week, with the 20 minutes or so each day I have spent in silence in my car, I have found tons of peace. It feels good to have some time to breathe and relax and not have any background noise.

This isn’t to say that I am now a boring lazy butt and that I don’t take time to blast some T-Swift and dance around in my car (let’s be honest, we all do it). But I have made a conscious effort to tell myself to just breathe every once in a while, to take a few moments each day for myself, to sit in the silence every once and awhile, and to remind myself of God’s…ness. His goodness, His faithfulness, His kindness, His gentleness. When the world may be crazy or unfair or simply rushed, God will be my peace (Micah 5:5).

“Be still, and know that I am God.”
[Psalm 46:10]

Books Books Books


I have a confession. I’m one of those nerdy people that love to read. Growing up I had shelves and shelves full of books in my room-picture books, novels, nonfiction, fiction, magazines, series, and texts. I didn’t watch a lot of TV when I was young (we got approximately three Canadian channels) and being an only child I often had to find ways to entertain myself. My parents read to me daily since before I can remember, and once I could read myself they passed the torch and I read to them. I can still remember laying in my bunk bed, in my old house, listening to my Dad read various Dr. Seuss books. I can picture him stretched out on the floor, propped up against my bed, with the pile of books I had chosen for him to read that night. I can hear his voice as he made the words and characters come alive, whether that be the Sneetches, the Whos, or the Oncelers.

I’m now a lot older than that little girl who devoured Nancy Drew and the Baby Sitters Club (anyone? Anyone?) However, my passion for reading has stayed the same. A majority of my reading time now is spent pouring over textbooks and studying theories instead of reading for pleasure. The bookshelves in my room are still full of books-except now they’re filled with C.S. Lewis, Durkheim, and Marx. And okay, there’s still an entire shelf of Nicholas Sparks in there. Regardless, my love of books and words and the magical worlds you gain access to when you start a new novel is still as strong as ever. Books have a special power about them. They can lead you to new places, teach you new things, uncover fresh perspectives, and re-light your imagination. Every time you crack open a new book you gain something with every page you finish.

I look forward to next month when I’m finished with school for a bit; to catch up on my reading list that has been shoved to the back of my book bag since I started college. I can’t wait to grab some sunglasses and a mason jar of lemonade and park myself in the sunshine with a new novel (seriously, I’m drooling right now just thinking about it). When I was about 8 I spoke at the International Reading Association’s annual conference in Florida. My uncle was the president of the association at the time (yeah, reading really does run in the family) and he asked me to share a little bit about myself. Of course, being 8 years old, I was terrified-right down to my freshly painted hot pink nails and my too-tightly braided hair. But, I did end up sharing my favorite quote at the time-and one that I still love:

 

“The more you read, the more you know. The more you know, the smarter you grow. The smarter you grow, the stronger your voice, when speaking your mind or making a choice.”
[Dr. Seuss]

Timing


Does anyone watch How I Met Your Mother? It’s my absolute favorite show in the whole entire world. My roommates and I have it playing on our Netflix 90% of the time, and I’ve probably seen each episode at least four or five times (and that’s lowballing it). It’s hard to say what exactly about the show is so great-the characters are loveable and relatable, the camerawork and scenery is creative, and each episode has me dying with laughter.

However, if I had to choose, I think my favorite thing about the show is that it conveys how important timing is. In case you’re unfamiliar with the TV series, it’s a sitcom based in New York that follows a group of close friends from their mid-twenties onward and their attempts to navigate through life. It’s narrated by the main character Ted, who is telling his two children the story of how he met their mother (hence the title of the show). It is a very long and winding story-the show started in 2005 and is now in its final season-and is filled with antidotes from Ted and his friends and his many, many dating conquests, essentially ending with how he and his wife got together.

Even better than finally finding out who the mystery woman is (finally!) is all of the twists of fate, or ‘the universe’ as the characters call it. Ted says many times throughout the years that if he had done one little thing differently-turned left instead of right, taken an alternative cab to work, went down another street, or eaten at a new bagel place-life would have turned out very differently for him and he may have never met his wife.

To me this underlying theme is the best part about the whole show. I firmly believe that God has a plan for everyone, but I also know that sometimes it’s hard to wait for it to unfold. I’m not saying that we should just sit back and watch life pass us by-not at all-but I do think that sometimes we get caught up in what we think our life should be like and the timing that society presses upon us.

So many times people feel pressured into getting married just because they’ve been together a few years, getting a ‘grown up job’ because they’re now in their mid-twenties, going through the grieving process at a certain rate, or having a child because they’ve passed the age of 30 and their ‘clock is ticking’. We even put time constraints on things like schooling-if you don’t graduate from college in four years exactly, we wonder what went wrong or assume that you must have messed up somewhere along the line. We allow society to dictate these timelines for us and when it’s ‘appropriate’ for us to partake in certain life events. I know that I’m not exactly the same as anyone else, so why should I expect to perform exactly the same way as someone else at exactly the same time?

I usually don’t do ‘rants’ like this but I do feel like it’s important to recognize that everyone moves at slightly different paces. Some people walk, some sprint, some limp, some skip, and some need a little nudging along. I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with this, but I do know it can be frustrating or simply confusing when people move at paces much different than our own. My newest resolution is to try and remember this on a daily basis and bestow a little grace and understanding on people instead of impatience-after all, I hope they would do the same for me.

 

 

“When the stars line up
And you catch a break
People think you’re lucky
But you know its grace
It can happen so fast
Or a little bit late
Timing is everything”
["Timing Is Everything" by Garrett Hedlund]

 

Those Little Things


The other night I was leaving the library, exhausted from all of the writing and facts and checking of Facebook and email every five minutes-you know, anything to distract me from the copious amount of work I had to do. My hands were full of the textbooks I couldn’t quite cram into my bulging backpack and I really had to pee (those cups of coffee were finally getting to me). My only focus was to get to my car as fast as possible, so I could arrive home and get some sleep before work the next morning. It was snowing and I was shivering, silently cursing the cold weather and winter in general. But then a snowflake hit me right on the nose. And instead of wiping it off in disgust, I had the urge to tilt my head back and stick out my tongue.

I only spent about thirty seconds standing there, in the middle of campus, at night, in the cold, with a full bladder and too many ‘better’ things to do. But for those thirty seconds those other things didn’t matter. I was a kid again, catching snowflakes in my mouth and feeling the excitement of winter instead of thinking about all the impractical things that season brings, like icy roads, wet boots, and needing to remember to wear gloves.

As I continued walking to my car, I realized that all too often I get caught up in the routine of life, of its responsibilities, and forget to just be. I use my calendar and planner religiously; I find peace in writing everything down and being able to check it off when it’s complete. But that night I found way more peace in pausing for thirty seconds and acting like a kid again. Catching snowflakes on my tongue wasn’t something that I had planned or that was written down on my to-do list. However, it brought me a little bit of joy when I was tired and stressed out and helped fill my tank back up.

While I drove home I spotted a girl crossing the street, clearly on her way home from school as well. She wasn’t talking to anyone or listening to music, but there was a small smile on her face and she looked content and pleased with life at that moment. I smiled as I watched her, wondering what she was thinking about and if she too had just taken a moment to catch some snowflakes on her tongue.

Since that night it hasn’t snowed again. But I did see an awesome sunset, and an even more majestic sunrise. I went on a late night drive with J, cranked the music up, and sang at the top of my lungs (I apologize for whoever had to hear that). We bundled up and went on a Saturday morning stroll to soak up the sunshine, even though it was freezing cold and I had a runny nose the rest of the day. I spent an hour playing Kinnect with my roommate instead of wallowing in agony over all of the studying that I had to do. And whenever I find myself reaching that frustrated edge of tension and stress I remind myself to take a deep breath, thank God for this incredible life He has given me, and savor the moment that I’m in and the little pleasures that it holds.

 

“In all of living, have much fun and laughter. Life is to be enjoyed, not just endured.”
[Gordon B. Hinckley]

Wanderlust


I have this unfortunate desire to live everywhere. Every place I travel to, I fall in love with. The moment I got off the plane in Peru I was swept away by the culture and language. In Paris I fell hard for the city of love; the twinkly lights on the Eiffel Tower and the Frenchmen smoking on their balconies at midnight. When I went to Miami I had the desire to lie out on South Beach forever, sipping fruity drinks and only worrying about the delicate balance between sunburn and suntan. When I landed in New York City and hopped on the subway, every fiber of my being longed to explore every nook and cranny of that magical city, play on each swing in Central Park, have a bite to eat at each little café, and have a drink at every single little dive bar. A couple of months ago when I was in Chicago I looked out the train window as we were barreling out to Evanston and drooled over the old brick brownstones covered in ivy, turned to J, and exclaimed “we must live here!”

He’s come to know the look in my eyes that I get when I fall in love with a place, a city, a community, a culture. Before I even open my mouth, he smiles and shakes his head, like oh no, I know what’s coming next. When I first went to Hawaii as a little girl I lusted after the crashing waves and juicy pineapple, and sure enough ended up living there after I graduated high school. There’s something so magical to me about new cities. Maybe it’s the thrill of the unknown-every person you pass is a stranger, every restaurant holds a new bite to eat, and every bus or train is a portal to a new adventure. Maybe it’s the adventure itself; the challenge of making a cramped little apartment into home, the battle with learning which bus takes you to campus, or the stress of finding a new job. Maybe it’s the promise of meeting new souls; thousands of new people to meet and love and learn about. Or maybe it’s the option for a fresh start; to be the person you want to be and not worry about the baggage that everyone at home already knows about.

Regardless of what the reason may be (or the many reasons, I suppose) I spend way too much of my time on Craigslist looking at cute little apartments in NYC and at adorable colonial homes in Wilmington. I drool over each property, imagining the flowers I might plant near the porch or the color I could paint the bedroom walls. I look up which coffee shops are closest, if the beach is within walking distance, and if there are trails that could lead me on an adventure from my own backyard. I think about the people I might meet while grocery shopping or while on a walk with my (imaginary) dog.

As for now, I am content with living in my current home, in The Yellow House within walking distance to school, with my best friends and fat cat, where the dishwasher always needs to be run and my closet is too full of clothes I never wear. But I know that someday, whether that be this summer when I graduate college, or next year when I go to grad school, or even three years from now when J gets a job in a faraway place, I will move to one of my wanderlust places and fall in love with it all over again, until we travel somewhere else and another city steals my heart. And now, I no longer consider my desire to sample everything and everyplace ‘unfortunate’.

 

“Not all those who wander are lost.”
[J.R.R. Tolkien ]

C. S. Lewis


Can we just take a second and talk about how awesome C. S. Lewis is? I mean really. He’s the man. Okay, Jesus is the man, but still. I don’t think there is (or was) a better writer and man after God’s heart than him. Actually, that’s a pretty bold statement. Let’s go top 3. Even though he died 50 years ago, C. S. Lewis lives on forever through his epic words and ideas. You see his quotes all over the Internet-I’m guilty of having several on my Instagram and right here on this blog. A lot of people quote him without even knowing it-his arguably most famous quote, “there are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind” is often repeated by people who have no idea it was written in a letter by him.

One of the first books I can remember getting when I was younger (post Dr. Seuss and pre Harry Potter) is The Chronicles of Narnia (also known as The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe series). I loved those books. I can still remember how vivid the pictures were in my mind, how attached I got to the characters, and how I never tired of sticking my head in my own closet in hopes that a magical world awaited me.

It was only a couple of years ago that I made the connection that the creator of Peter and Lucy was also the brilliant mind that penned “Mere Christianity” and “The Screwtape Letters” (both of which are iBooks on my phone, Kevin). After the initial shock wore off I realized that I actually wasn’t surprised at all. Of course the brilliant man who wrote about a magical land where a kid could become king was also the blessed heart behind some of the most epic modern Christian ideas.

And, he was friends with J. R. R. Tolkien. Like that should even surprise me. Can he get any cooler?! I mean, really. I think I would scrub toilets for the rest of my life just to bask in their presence for ten minutes. Okay, maybe like an hour, if I’m actually cleaning bathrooms forever.

Regardless, C. S. Lewis inspires me every day with his timeless words and profound thoughts. I read and reread his words, seeing Christ through his letters and imagination in his paragraphs. As a fellow lover of words (I won’t dare call myself a writer in the same blog about two of the best authors of all time) I respect him greatly and feel personally saddened by his early death (which was overshadowed by the tragedy of JFK, who was assassinated the same day). His thoughts on how to live life for Jesus (don’t shine so that others can see you, shine so that others may see Him through you) and humility (not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less) are epic and profound and something I think we all need more of, especially in this worldly place that we live in.

“Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny.”
[C.S. Lewis]

Words


A lot of the times before I write I start typing in my head. Wait, what? Okay, I don’t actually start typing in my head (or on my head; it would be a bit difficult to reach the keyboard up there) but I start forming sentences and paragraphs in my mind. I picture the words on the paper, the punctuation, the indents, even the font (in case you’re wondering I think in Arial, too). I write down to-do lists, life plans, love notes, future goals, quotes, and daydreams.

I’ve always been a writer. I’m not saying I’m a great writer, or even a good writer, but writing has always been the way that I function. I think the best when I write things out, and most of my better ideas have come from randomly plucking at a keyboard early in the morning or scribbling on a scratch piece of paper while my morning coffee brews. Yes, I’m one of those rare people who actually function best at 6 am. Three of my four tattoos are words, and all of the future tattoos I desire are phrases as well. When I told this to my best friend she laughed and said it didn’t surprise her. “You’re a writer, Coat! That’s how you think.” Huh. I had never thought of it that way before, but she was right.

Words speak to me in a way that pictures and movies do not (not to say I don’t love a great film or striking photograph). I adore quotes-I have framed quotes sitting around my bedroom and bathroom, words handing on my wall at home, and sticky notes on my monitor at work. I doodle phrases in my planner daily, jot down song lyrics that appeal to me, and go nuts with my highlighter when doing my Bible devotions in the morning.

I appreciate people that have a way with words and can explicitly write things down while still using a small number of words. I think being a good writer is something that we downplay in today’s society, with our emphasis on blockbuster hits and autocorrect. I love stumbling across incredible bloggers online and find great joy in reading their work whenever they publish a new post.

Maybe I’m one of the weird ones, but I still send handwritten thank you notes after the holidays and my birthdays and regularly send snail mail to my family members from out of town. I think we’ve started to lose appreciation for hand written notes and love letters, for little sticky notes left to coworkers and ‘have a great day’ notes on our roommate’s bathroom mirror. As one of my new year’s resolutions I’ve decided to make a larger effort to send more notes and let the people who I love, know that I love them.

 

“You never have to change anything you got up in the middle of the night to write.”
[Saul Bellow]

 

 

My Take of the Month of Thankfulness


Well, it’s that time of year again-November brings a month of thankfulness posts for most of the cyber world. I’m going to level with y’all. I LOVE the holidays-fall, and Thanksgiving, and frolicking through the leaves (yes, I really do frolic) and the first snow, and Christmas Eve, and Christmas, and New Year’s..every single moment of the holiday season-which I consider November 1st to January 1st-I cherish and adore. And, I love that November brings a month of recognition of the abundance of blessings in people’s lives. But..I also hate it.

Now, stay with me here.

I love the fact that people (including me) recognize how grateful they are for the people and the things in their life. But, I hate that we wait for a certain month of the year to express it. Are things really that different during the holiday season? Sure, we’re reminded more about family and thankfulness (hence, THANKSgiving) and yes, drinking peppermint hot cocoa while snuggled up with our loved ones certainly reminds us of how lucky we are. But really, aren’t we are just as blessed all year round?

Last year I started to do the month of thankfulness here on my blog. Then, school and life got in the way (I know, excuses excuses) and I turned it into a year of thankfulness. However, that only really lasted until the spring, and again life got in the way and I veered away from the thankfulness posts.

Isn’t that what happens to all of us? We bask in the presence of our family and friends during the holidays: we share delicious meals with each other, laugh until we have six packs (I’m still waiting for mine to show up), and chase one another around in the snow until our toes are frozen and we’re sure that they’re going to snap right off. We cherish these moments and resolve to be more grateful for them; New Year’s Eve comes around and sometimes we even make resolutions to do so. Then, the year kicks off and the holiday season fades away, becoming nothing more than a recycling can full of wrapping paper and a backyard strewn with exploded firework parts. We start to get busy again and lose touch with old friends and distant family members. We start getting midterms and final projects and run out of time to do our Bible devotionals. We get so busy focusing on life that we forget to cherish what makes our life so special.

As I’ve gotten older (which may sound silly to some of you because I’m only 21 and have a lot of life left to live) I’ve realized that life is all about the people that are involved in it and the little moments that make it so special. It’s easy to forget about this until we are reminded by the next holiday season and the greeting cards and cute Thanksgiving decorations it brings. However, this year I’m resolving to try and remember how precious each moment is and to be grateful for my life and the many blessings in it-every. Single. Day. Not just on Sunday, or during the holidays, or when something extra special happens. Everyday, because life is a gift and I couldn’t be more blessed if I tried.

Pinteresting Straight to Struggle City


I’m sure you’ve seen pictures online that feature people’s ‘Pinterest Fails’. They usually involve comically terrible pictures of people’s attempts at making various crafts and baked goods. My personal favorite would have to be the crying baby in the pumpkin. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, Google it. You’ll laugh. I promise. And if not..welcome to my life of laughing hysterically at ridiculous and dumb things. Usually I laugh so hard that I cry. Or snort. Whichever comes first.

Now, I’m as huge of a Pinterest fan as the next person. Actually probably a little bit more. A lot bit more. And, not to brag or anything, but I’ve attempted and completed some pretty (excuse my language) kickass projects. And, to completely cancel out my prior statement, I’ve had some pretty amazing fails.

When I was trying to think up a title for this blog post I turned to my handy dandy thesaurus. I like to pretend that I walk over to my bookshelf, pull down my old and worn volume that’s dog-eared to my favorite words and thumb through it until I find the perfect synonym. In actuality I pull up an extra tab on Google Chrome (I’ve just started to use it as my default web browser and I must say it’s pretty great so far. Yay Google) and go to thesaurus.com. But shh. I didn’t tell y’all that.

Anyway, I was searching for the title for this blog and typed in fail. I didn’t really want to title this ‘Pinterest Fails’ because for one, I don’t have a bunch of those super hilarious pictures and I don’t want to disappoint you. Secondly, I have a thing for cool, unusual words and was determined to find the perfect one. Thirdly, I recently started an amazing internship and am surrounded by beautiful, intelligent people every day, which has prompted me to want to improve my vocabulary (and also have like five degrees, but that’s beside the point). WHICH brings us back to the point of me wanting a creative synonym for fail. Some of my favorites that popped up on my handy dandy thesaurus: flop, fizzle, go down swinging, and my overall pick ‘miss the boat’.

So..there have been many times where I have missed the boat on the whole Pinterest thing. The most memorable ones would have to be in the kitchen. Now, I have definitely improved on the whole chef thing (I’m talking maybe assistant chef at Applebees not quite executive chef at Wolfgang Puck’s) but I definitely have some room for advancement. This one time last year when my boyfriend and I were on a healthy kick (I think it was the Monday after we spent the entire weekend eating ice cream and resolved that something had to change) I found a recipe for oat cakes. They boasted only two ingredients: bananas and oats. I know, I know-you’re probably already shaking your head at me and my ignorant self, believing that it could actually work. Needless to say, they turned into disgusting little boulders after ten minutes in the oven and made our kitchen smell like monkey farts.

This would only be the beginning of baking and crafting mishaps-some involving spray paint, some involving bleeding fingers, and some involving both of those things and then some. But still, I can’t help but to scroll through Pinterest imagining my house filled with all of these beautiful things I made without effort and inviting my friends over for a five course home cooked meal. For now though, I think I’ll settle for a few paintings on the wall and some mac and cheese.