Nº. 1 of  2

Alabaster and Nard

"And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume"

Posts tagged life:

Summer, after all, is a time when wonderful things can happen to quiet people. For those few months, you’re not required to be who everyone thinks you are, and that cut-grass smell in the air and the chance to dive into the deep end of a pool give you a courage you don’t have the rest of the year. You can be grateful and easy, with no eyes on you, and no past. Summer just opens the door and lets you out.

—― Deb Caletti, Honey, Baby, Sweetheart

And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.

—F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

The missing puzzle piece and the bend in the road.

We all have a purpose for our lives. This may sound radically cliché; it may have been instilled into our heads a little too much growing up, but that does not negate the fact that it is entirely true. We have a purpose for our lives. I have a purpose for my life. I know this to be true because Jeremiah 29:11 tells me so: “For I know the plans I have for you…” The Lord has a ridiculously amazing plan for my life. I know He does; I feel it down to my very bones. This thought has been prompted by the revelation of the life of Pope John Paul II – a strangely different philanthropist of a Pope. He appeared to be following, with all his heart, the will and the path the Lord had laid aside for him. And I have had to ask myself, “Can I do the same?”

I like to think that the way the Lord reveals His will for our lives is a little bit like a scavenger hunt. When I was younger, my dad would always create scavenger hunts for me. He would write up little slips of paper and scatter them around the house, and wait and watch while I tried to unravel the clues. Up and down the stairs, outside, around the house, in the mailbox – he was amazingly creative when it came to revealing the next clue to the puzzle. And always at the end, something wonderful awaited me. Once, it was an ice cream treat; another time, a new toy; once, above all my expectations, it was a beautiful new bedroom set (which I still have and use today.) I like to think that that is a little how the Lord works when He reveals to us little bits of His plan for our lives. He does not want to give away the whole game at once – for where would the faith and fun be in that? No, little by little, prompt by prompt, every day, we get closer to the revelation of our lives; the “aha!” moment, when the curtains part, and the marvelous plan for our lives is revealed like a beautifully produced play.

I am a huge Anne of Green Gables fan. And in one part of the first book, Anne talks about the “road” of her life. She always thought it was so linear, and that she had it all worked out how it would go: school, college, marriage, etc. But then, a curveball is thrown in, and a bend in the road is revealed. She cannot see as far ahead as she had previously thought. “…My future seemed to stretch out before me like a straight road. I thought I could see along it for many a milestone. Now there is a bend in it. I don’t know what lies around the bend, but I’m going to believe that the best does. It has a fascination of its own, that bend.” I could not agree more. It may be reassuring to know every aspect of one’s life, before it plays out; it may be comforting to have every milestone mapped out. But it is not nearly as much fun, and it does not require nearly as much faith in the Lord’s providence.

I do not know what my road holds for me. I would like to think that I have a faint glimpse, maybe, of what the next few miles may hold, at the least; but I know, without a doubt, that a curve is coming up somewhere, sometime soon. All I know, right now, in this moment, is that I need to finish school, and finish strong - to perform well, to exceed academically, to love my fellow students. More than that the Lord has not solidly and assuredly revealed to me.

It is scary to not know what the future holds. A sharp turn may come up even tomorrow and knock me off my feet in its unexpected arrival. But the purpose of my life is not so much about the specific things I will do, or not do; no, the measure and scope of my life will be recognized by whether I was a woman who followed the Lord with all her heart and soul, who willingly made sacrifices for Him; who pursued Him at cost to her reputation, family, and dreams, or whether I was a woman who lived for her own desires and recognition and fame. I will endeavor to be the former.

Life is full of beauty. Notice it. Notice the bumble bee, the small child, and the smiling faces. Smell the rain, and feel the wind. Live your life to the fullest potential, and fight for your dreams.

—Ashley Smith

We all pretend for a while or for a lifetime. But pretending is not living…I believe that God meant for life to take our breath away, sometimes because of the sheer joy of it all and sometimes because of the severe pain. To choose living over pretending means that we will know both.

—Angela Thomas

Life does not have to be perfect to be wonderful.

—Annette Funicello

I wanted movement and not a calm course of existence. I wanted excitement and danger and the chance to sacrifice myself for my love. I felt in myself a superabundance of energy which found no outlet in our quiet life.

—Leo Tolstoy,  Family Happiness

I’d like to add some beauty to life. I don’t exactly want to make people KNOW more… though I know that IS the noblest ambition… but I’d love to make them have a pleasanter time because of me… to have some little joy or happy thought that would never have existed if I hadn’t been born.

—Anne Shirley, Anne of Avonlea

People travel to wonder at the height of the mountains, at the huge waves of the seas, at the long course of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motion of the stars, and yet they pass by themselves without wondering.

—St. Augustine

The Real Deal

The movies would have us believe that love is passionate and faultlessly timed and superbly scripted. They would have us presume that it develops quickly (ideally, in about ninety minutes, or enough time for us to finish our popcorn and soda), comes in a nice, well-dressed and perfectly shaped package, and usually involves some theatrical climax, preferably in the rain, where the heroine breathlessly waits for her hunky man to sweep her off her feet and deliver her that ardent finale kiss. End the show, drop the curtains.

Now I can’t speak for you, but that is hardly how love works in my everyday life. For one, it’s not nearly so melodramatic, and I usually look far from flawless, especially on those rainy days. We’ve been conditioned by our society these days to develop a folie à deux in regards to love; we think that if love does not fit the stringent expectations placed on it by the entertainment industry, then surely it’s not love. What a fallacy. Love has so many facets, so many manifestations, that to limit it to how love is played out on the screen does it a great disservice.

We’ll all reach a moment in our lives when we stumble across something that seems to us to look a lot like this thing called love, and we become both nonplussed and delighted by the simplicity and unmitigated beauty of it. For some, all it takes is one confrontation with the exhibition of the emotion to clarify what it looks like. For others, we might miss it the first time, only to reminisce on a certain event or memory later and have it stumble right back into our lap with a loud plunk, and cause us to think, “How the heck did I miss that the first time?”

As much as I’d like to say that I was wise and clever enough to realize right away when I was confronted with the “real deal,” I won’t do such a thing. But I will make the claim of being sensible enough to know that there are certain points in my life where, upon reflection, I see with astonishing clarity that I have been shown great love. And it is these moments that have shaped my definition of love, and how I want to see it manifested in my life.

The first memory takes me back to a sweltering summer afternoon in the Dominican Republic. I was on a service trip, working to refurbish houses in an impoverished neighborhood in a little ravine community in the center of Santo Domingo. I was there to serve, to give a helping hand where needed. One particular day we were told to make cement to cover the walls of the house on which we were working. Making cement involved pouring the cement mix into the dry ground, adding water, and mixing the concoction until it was the right consistency. To mix cement was roughly a two-person job, and we had about four of us at this particular site. So, naturally, we took the work in shifts: work a few minutes, rest a few minutes. Repeat. Simple enough in theory, physically exhausting in practice. After about ten minutes of this, in the roasting Dominican sun, I am sorry to say that we all were a hot mess. Our skin was speckled with the cement dust, our shoes had clumps of the mixture on them, our pants were dirty from the dirty ground, and we were absolutely drenched in sweat. It’s important to note that all the while my team and I were doing this, we were surrounded by the children of the community – darling, delightful, dirty little creatures that were constantly vying for our attention. They absolutely loved getting hugs and piggyback rides from us, or teaching us their whimsical, silly games. Upon my break, as was their custom, the kids would come up and start jabbering to me in a language that I was having a hard time deciphering, despite my four years of high school Spanish. One girl in particular plopped herself right down on my lap, looked me right in the eyes, and said, “¿Haces calor?” (Are you hot?). I sighed and nodded. Yep, I was hotand dripping with perspiration. She looked at me sympathetically, as if to say, “Silly American, it’s only 102 degrees outside and it’s morning. How can you be hot in this weather?” and proceeded to take her bare hand and wipe the sweat off of my face.

That moment was, without a doubt, one of the most humbling moments of my life. I could only sit there, stunned, while this little girl, no older than seven, brushed the drops of salty moisture off my face. When she finished, she gave me this little smile and then wrapped her arms around my sweaty, dirty torso and hugged me. Tightly.

I can’t look back on that cherished memory and not smile. This would be my first realization of the true, undaunted, indisputable love to which I had been exposed, in the form of a little Dominican child. This girl had managed to look past my dirtiness and sweatiness and exhaustion and just love me, as I was. People often throw around the Shakespearian phrase, “Love is blind.” But I don’t think I agree with that statement (No offense Shakespeare.) Sure, love can sometimes hinder your perception of things, but love – true love­ – can look at someone with all their faults and flaws, and say, despite that, “I love you still.” That is the beauty in true, undiluted, love. It’s not that it ignores the imperfections, but that it understands that a person is more than the mistakes they’ve made, or the face they were born with, or the annoying quirks they sometimes have. That darling Dominican girl understood just that when she chose to look past my grungy appearance and was willing to actually touch me, hug me. I was filthy. And I know that I was smelly. It would have been completely understandable to stay far away and down wind of me. So, I know that when I find someone that wants to be around me, even though I sometimes talk more than I should, am usually late to everything, might really smell after a long run, and have a huge zit on my face, I know that I need to grab hold of those people and not let go. They are the people I want to surround myself with, and the kind of person I wish to be.

After I returned from the DR and started college, I had the wonderful godsend to meet with such a girl. She was a psychology major and had such a comprehending discernment of people. One particular night, near the end our sophomore year, we were studying for our stats exam together in the student lounge. Somehow, we got into talking instead of actually studying (a rare occurrence among college students, of course) and at some point, our conversation shifted and took on a more serious tone. We were talking about some things about myself that I did not like, particularly how sassy I can be at times. (Oh, you hadn’t noticed that, yet?)

With a gulp of air, she told me, bluntly, “Yeah, I’ve been wanting to talk to you about that, Kelsey.” She then proceeded to tell me how my attitude sometimes toward people and things was hurtful to herself and others. It was a hard criticism to swallow. It wasn’t that I disagreed with her, exactly; it’s just that it’s alwayshard to see your own shortcomings being examined and analyzed and critiqued. I felt exposed, and vulnerable, but also immeasurably grateful. How many people had I heedlessly hurt by my sometimes-barbed tongue? How many more could I have hurt, had I not been called out on my behavior?

I discovered, from that moment, that love does not settle. It can accept you for who you are – follies and all – but it does not expect you to stay that way. It asks that you constantly change, constantly evolve into a better you. My friend asked that of me, even though I know it was hard for her to do so.  She was risking our friendship and my indignation by calling me out. However, she believed that the risk was worth it. Because Diane loved me so much, it actually hurt her to see me be less than what she knew I was capable of.  I learned that when you find a love that does that, a love that not accept mediocrity, but that wishes to see you be the very best, incandescent you that you can be, you know, without a doubt, that that is the real deal, the whole kit and caboodle. And it really doesn’t look a thing like what I see on the Lifetime channel. It’s so much more.

At some point you have to make a decision. Boundaries don’t keep other people out, they fence you in. Life is messy, that’s how we’re made. So you can waste your life drawing lines… or you can live your life crossing them.

Here’s what I know: if you’re willing to take a chance… the view from the other side is spectacular.

I cannot, for the life of me, understand my heart.

—Jim Elliot

Nº. 1 of  2