Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Epic Moments

Do you ever wish that life had a soundtrack playing in the background? The soundtracks to Gladiator and Batman have gotten me through many late-night study sessions. Just today I woke up to Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1 (guaranteed to instill instant belief that today will be beautiful and grand), cleaned the kitchen with the excitement of Vivaldi's Spring, and then proceeded to make scones with melancholy and foreboding thanks to part of Dvorak's New World Symphony. Music just makes everyday moments so much more epic.

I used to live waiting for epic moments. How could I possibly enjoy the day's hum-drum assignments when there would be a party at the weekend, or a wedding next month, or a vacation abroad soon? As a young teenager, the film Inn of the Sixth Happiness caught my imagination, and somehow I got round to believing that life would be incomplete unless I did something as similarly glorious and noteworthy as leading orphan children to safety in China. I felt that I wouldn't have really lived unless I had an epic moment of my own.

I now think differently. What if epic moments are disguised as part of the everyday? What if the moments that I'll look back on someday with most appreciation are snippets from this summer such as...

...an evening at Starbucks with my brother...
...watching Les Miserables with my mother (her first time)...
...curling up with a great book and a cup of tea, listening to a thunderstorm...
...catching up with old friends and meeting awesome new people...
...listening to my teenage students' sometimes-deep, sometimes-hilarious, always-creative explanations of modern art...
...feeling the love and appreciation of those same students...
...eating fresh raspberries and tomatoes from the garden...?

And what if the moments of greatest significance you bring to other people are also disguised as small things?

What if it's the small talk you make with a tired supermarket cashier?
What if it's the smile and the spare change you give to a homeless person?
What if it's the way you make your family feel loved?
What if it's the time you take to call or write to a friend?

Perhaps many of our epic moments come without fanfare and soundtracks. What moments will you experience today?
"Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things." - Robert Brault

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Missing It

It's so easy to look back with rose-colored glasses, especially after weeks like this.

On weeks like this, I struggle with an anxious, negative mindset. I'm stressed and overwhelmed with everything that I'm supposed to do, and learn, and be. I'm afraid that I'll never meet the standard. Perhaps I am too much of a perfectionist, an overachiever, but I can't simply switch that off.

Occasionally, when I am especially sleep-deprived, I grow resentful of a system that teaches me the importance of a balanced, healthy lifestyle, and then loads me with so much to accomplish that the balanced, healthy lifestyle just doesn't seem to be an option. I feel something inside of me dying, although I can't quite put my finger on what it is. I feel guilty because I know how much some people would give to put themselves in my position. Yet the "spark" in me gets fainter.

Then at Friday night vespers, a student shares about her mission experience: "That year as a student missionary was the hardest, but also the happiest, of my life."

Yes. I can relate. But even while acknowledging that I had plenty of hard times in my student missionary experience, all my memories are filtered through those rose-colored glasses.

I miss it.

"[E]very woman in her heart of hearts longs for three things: to be romanced, to play an irreplaceable role in a great adventure, and to unveil beauty. That's what makes a woman come alive." John and Stasi Eldredge
In my 18 months as a student missionary, I felt like I had those three things, and it did make me feel alive.

I miss the sense of purpose and day-to-day adventure. I miss feeling that I am really making a difference. I miss being truly close to people who saw me at my worst and my craziest, and loved me anyway. I miss how much more simple and people-focused life was. I admit that I miss being told every day that I am beautiful :P

As I pondered how much I miss, God spoke to my heart.

"He made from one blood all nations who live on the earth. He set the times and the places where they should live." Acts 17:26 NLV

Just as God called me to South East Asia back then, He has called me to Collegedale, TN now.
If He could get me through the hard times back then, He can get me through the hard times now. If He gave me a sense of purpose, beauty, adventure and love in my life in Asia, surely He can give me those same things here in America.

Because the same God who called me to student missions is the same God who called me back to student life.

It's OK to look back with joy on times gone by, but I cannot let rose-tinted memories of the past rob me of what God wants for me in the present.

So I go back to my books.

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If anyone has any comments and advice about how you survived/are surviving your college years, how you find balance in life, and how you set priorities -- anything that could help me overcome my tendency to stress out -- I'd love to hear from you!



Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Batter My Heart

While studying for my British Literature class, I encountered a poem that I thought was so striking I had to share it.

Batter my heart, three-personed God; for you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise and stand, o'erthrow me, and bend
Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like a usurped town, to another due,
Labor to admit you, but O, to no end;
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captive, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain,
But am betrothed unto your enemy.
Divorce me, untie or break that knot again;
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, shall never be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

John Donne (1572-1631)