Monday, January 13, 2014

What We're Made Of.

Trials and tribulations. Difficulties. Catastrophes. Pain and sorrow. Anguish. These are not places we like to be. We don't wake up in the morning and think, "Today, I'm looking forward to some good, old-fashioned pain." We avoid situations that may cause us heartache, because we would much rather feel happiness and joy. We would rather have a smile on our face than a scowl.

Let me argue something, something I heard over the weekend that brought me so much clarity I had to squint.

"Where there is pain, there is meaning."

 Let that sit with you for a minute. Let it make you uncomfortable. Lean into it, lean into it so much that you break under the pressure. It might scare you, to let yourself stare pain in the face. Marinade in it, marry it, embrace it. Do you allow yourself to truly be in your pain? Maybe you let it sneak under the door, but do you let it meet you in the dark, vulnerable, raw places in your heart? When you let the pain seep in like the rain seeps into the dry earth, you will find a tiny, incandescent miracle - the pain will ebb and flow like the waves, but as the tide fades, where the waves once crashed on the shore, there is clarity.  There is a clarity and a meaning that you have never known. We run away from pain because it's like ripping off a band-aid; immediately painful and something we don't look forward to. What is beneath the band-aid, though? Is the wound still aching? Is it still an open, angry gash? No. The wound is healing. So it is with our heartaches, our anguish, our sorrows. Allow yourself to be in the middle of the pain. Stand in the storm, let the rain pelt your face and dance with the lightning, quake with the thunder, because after the storm, you will look around and see the new life it has brought.

The miracle of pain is that it teaches us what we're made of. I'm a youth group leader, and this weekend we had our annual retreat. The girls in my group along with my co-leader talked about this idea of building our houses. Everything that we do, every decision we make, are bricks in the house we have to live in. If you build your house out of broken promises, bitterness, resentment, anger, and unresolved pain, when a catastrophe strikes, your house will crumble. Conversely, if you build your house out of truth, hope, love, and most of all, strength, you will find that, with every new pain, your house gets stronger and stronger.

So be in the pain. Be in the sorrow. Don't wallow in it - rather, let it wash over you. Explore it. Talk to it. Experience it and allow it to ruminate in your soul. How you react to it, and the strength you gain from each experience, will be bricks in your house.

Build a good one.


Brooke + JuneBug

Wednesday, January 1, 2014


I've never been one to make really concrete resolutions. I've always known that life happens, and things get pushed and pulled and squeezed and changed and trimmed and suddenly, you've forgotten your resolution completely. The last few years, my resolutions have been more like paradigm shifts than tangible re-purposing of my day-to-day actions. Last year, I didn't even make a resolution. I intentionally said, "Nope," and just kept going. I think that, by refusing to make an intentional change, my mind sort of subconsciously made one for me.

This past year was one of ups and downs. I learned that I can push myself to the edge, but instead of just balancing there, looking down at the abyss, fearing for my life, I can jump off, and fly. I learned that I can be happy in whatever situation I'm in. I learned that things aren't always what they seem, but that I can (and should) be true to myself especially in those situations. I feel like I did a lot of soul-growth in 2013. A lot of it I kept to myself, because I felt like sharing it with too many people would jinx it. Looking back, I feel like not sharing it would be criminal, so here it is. Three resolutions (read: paradigm shifts) for 2014.

1. Know Yourself.

More often, as I get older, I find myself in situations that require a lot of self-knowledge. I'm confronted with new people, new places, questions requiring answers, etc. All of these things demand that I understand, to the very core, WHO I AM and WHAT I WANT OUT OF LIFE. It's easy to forget this, and to do what you think others expect you to do, or what feels right in that particular circumstance. When you find yourself in these situations, try to think about your future self, and what you would think of this particular choice looking back on it. Would you be proud? Or would you be ashamed? Would you make the same choice in different company? Or is this choice a response to your present company?

I sometimes feel setbacks in this area. I feel like I really know myself and who I am and what I want out of life, then I have to make a huge decision and I'm really stumped. These are the things that make us grow. Those hard questions that feel like they take eternities to answer? You're learning who you are in the midst of that decision. Getting to know yourself is nothing like getting to know other people. You ask other people what they're favorite food is. You ask about their political views and their family and their past relationships. You ask about their favorite movies and their children. You ask yourself what makes you happy. You ask about your insecurities and your temptations and your shame. You ask about your purpose and your intentions. Learn to really listen to your responses to these questions. Pay attention when confronted with difficulties - your response is part of who you are, the building blocks of the house you have to live in forever. Answer well, and pay attention.

2. Give.

 This is something that has become increasingly more important to me as I get older. I need to preface this with a disclaimer about things. Every now and then, I look around my room, my house, my life, and I reflect on how much I have. Friends, I call this perspective. I almost always have this moment of tremendous clarity when I realize how many things I have. Things are so troublesome. They create clutter, they cloud your brain, they make you covet other things, and they make you want more things. This past year, I looked at all my things and then imagined that those things were all tangible love. Love that I could give away. Love that I could share freely. Love that I could use to express my feelings. As I began to do this more regularly, a radical shift began to take place. I started to realize that I could give away my things and still have more than enough love to give away, plus keep some for myself. That leads me onto this idea of giving.

Giving doesn't have to be some great big elaborate show, where you sacrifice everything you have so that another person can be happy, and everyone claps and says what a spectacular human being you are. It is rather a smaller giving, for a bigger reward. Giving doesn't always come in the form of giving things away. You can give someone your time. You can give someone your attention. You can give someone your love. These are things that money cannot buy. It's wonderful to give a coat to someone who doesn't have one, or shoes, or money, or food. These are commendable, worthwhile things. However, sometimes, the greatest gifts are the ones that cannot be measured. For many people, the greatest gifts are the ones they didn't even know they needed. The beautiful thing about giving is that, as the giver, you are always rewarded just as greatly as the person receiving your gift. Just give. Give your time, give your hands, give your heart, give your love, as much of it as you can, as often as possible.

3. Be Happy.

This sounds so impossibly simple. It's easy to be happy. Is it really, though? I would argue that it's easier to be irritable. It's easier to complain than it is to count your blessings. One thing I've learned this year about being happy is that I have to constantly choose it. I am easily bogged down by pain, drama, sadness, anger, etc. I have made an intentional effort this year to look critically at each of those situations and find something that makes me happy, or something positive. Amazingly, each time I practice this, it makes the situation seem less awful. Even in the face of grief, finding something that makes me smile makes everything seem more manageable.

The same applies for the way you look at yourself. When you look in the mirror, do you instantly see your flaws? Stop it. Look instead for 2 or 3 things you like about yourself, every time you look in the mirror. Say those things out loud, over and over again, every day. Between this practice, and choosing happiness, I've found that my outlook on life is so much better. I find joy in nearly everything. I more confidently accept challenges. I know that I am of great worth, and I know that I have a lot to offer others.

I don't know if you will find the same clarity, the same strength in these 'resolutions' as I have, but I wanted to share them, just in case. I hope that your year is blessed.


Brooke + JuneBug