Tag Archives: friends

Mountain Tops and Attitudes

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I just got back from backpacking with some of the awesome high schoolers in the youth group I work with.  And I noticed something odd, something that has been niggling at the back of my mind for over a month now.

See, a little over a month ago I went camping with some of my middle schoolers from the same youth group.  We hiked a 14er (I think I’ve mentioned this before, but that means a mountain whose summit is over 14,000 feet above sea level).  Now, this is nothing new; we do this every year.  And I am the “in the back” leader, pushing those who don’t necessarily want to go, up the mountain (mostly because I’m one of the slowest hikers I know, so I naturally fit there).  Until this year, I’d never summitted a mountain.  We’d gotten pretty close at least twice, but never to the summit.  But somehow, this year, the group in the back made it all the way up.  Craziness.  I knew it wasn’t because I was in better shape.  Definitely NOT the case this year.  I chalked it up to having kids who were in better condition and more willing to hike than in years before.

But then, this last week when we went backpacking, a similar thing happened.  Hiking into the camping site, backpacks the size of some of our middle schoolers on our backs, we didn’t stop nearly as much as before.  And, the coolest part was, I, personally, didn’t have to stop nearly as much as in the past.  Really, I promise I’m not in better condition.

But obviously something’s changed.  Whether it’s because the kids needed me to push them less this time ‘round, or there’s less emotional baggage for me to carry, or what, I don’t know.  But I’m enjoying the difference.

It’s kinda crazy because other than not using strength to push other’s attitudes aside and encourage them, there really was not much different.  Which, I guess goes to show just how every important it is to have good attitudes about everything – and to have people around you who encourage you (as well as you can encourage).  When the people around you are only griping and complaining…life gets hard.  It’s hard to be the sole encourager; it takes a great deal of emotional strength to do that, which saps your physical strength.

So, I guess my challenge is to surround yourself with people who will encourage you as much as you encourage them.  Make it up the mountain with them.

And keep trudgin’.  It’s when we stop that we feel we can’t start again.

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Margins

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This week has been a blessing for me.  A while ago I heard someone say that she tries to live with “margins” in her life – meaning that she tries to live with a bit of extra time in every day to be able to appreciate the beauty around her.  I’m sure she was quoting someone famous, but I don’t know who, and she didn’t cite her reference.

Over the past year I’ve begun discovering the importance of “living with margins”, and what exactly that means.  Sometimes this is a conscious choice (and battle) to not schedule every moment of her day; sometimes this is simply a choice to look for the beauty found amongst the unavoidable busy.  It’s a way of living life.

Starting a week ago today, I’ve had the gift of very large margins.  Last week Friday did not go as planned.  Not that it was a bad thing (hence the reason no post last week – sorry)!  I got to see people I hadn’t planned on seeing, chat with them, and took a friend grocery shopping.  And then I got to go to a (planned) game night.  It was a great day – just not the blog-writing, sewing, productive one I had planned!

Most of my days since then have been similar to last Friday, mostly because other plans were cancelled.  It was absolutely brilliant.  I have time to spend catching up, and not feeling guilty as I sit and listen to the rain, or taking pictures (can someone say ‘therapy’?) of pretty flowers, or hanging out with friends and youth kids, or really soaking in some wise words of a book, or of a song.  The week has not gone according to plan A…or plan B…or sometimes even plan C, but since I have the time to discover what plan D is, it’s really no big deal.  And I love that.  I want to live my life – as much of it as possible – this way.
I need to learn how to schedule such time into each day; I need to learn that I don’t have to schedule each moment of every day.  It’s NOT a waste of time if there aren’t plans in my calendar.

It’s a different way to spend time, a healthier way.  It’s good.  I cannot tell you how relaxed my spirit is.  I can breathe again.

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Make or Break

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Relationships make or break life.  I’m serious.

Think about it.  In elementary school – what ruined your day?  It wasn’t if you got an “F” on the spelling test (if it was, your momma and I should have a talk).  It wasn’t if hot lunch was taquitos instead of the French Toast that was on the menu.  It was if you and your friends had problems. (Okay, so keep in mind I’m speaking from a girl’s point of view.  I have no idea about boys.  It might have been earth shattering if you didn’t get to kick the ball at recess if you’re a boy.)  But if you’re a girl, than you know that the worst thing that could happen was getting in a fight with your friend group.  You would go home in tears and even Mom’s pudding wouldn’t make things better.  The same was true of middle school, except the fights got nastier and lasted longer and were generally more public…in a quiet, whispery sort of way.  High school pretty much was a repeat of middle school, except there was less fighting (hopefully).  But, in high school, there was the additional stress of “boyfriend”.  Or lack of “boyfriend”.

And then there’s college.  Your roommate (or roommates) make or break college.  If you and your roommate get along, if you guys know how to talk stuff out, and actually deal, and know how to give each other space, but also how to get into each other’s space when needed, your year will be awesome.  I don’t care if you have the worst classes ever.  You like your roommate, you two click, your year will be good.  On the flip side, if you have the best classes ever, and even make some good friends, but don’t get along with your roommate, your year will be incredibly hard. In.cred.ib.ly. Holding on by the white of your knuckles hard.

And then you get to  “adult” life and relationships take a different tone.  You have work relationships.  And church relationships.  And friendships that have miraculously hung on through the years from college or earlier.  And maybe, even, a husband (or wife).  And those relationships are crazy important too.  Your relationships will make life fun and wonderful, or incredibly stressful and hard.

So, all that to say, take care of your relationships.  Whether they’re romantic or really deep friendships , or even family – take care of them.  Life is SO much more enjoyable when things are going smooth-ish. (even good relationships have bumps – and they should!  Otherwise they don’t grow!)

So, today, on a day when stores are packed with haggard-looking men desperate for the last rose left on the shelf, and the slightly beaten-up box of chocolates, maybe broaden the subject a bit.  Sure, romantic love is fun, and necessary, and it’s not the worst idea in the world to have a day reminding us of that.  BUT, it’s also a good day to look around at the relationships of all types that you have in your life and appreciate them…and maybe polish them up a bit.

Send your friend a text telling them what a great friend they are.  Give your mom (and maybe even your brother) a hug.  Spend a few minutes in quiet, listening to whatever it is God’s been trying to say to you for the last week that you’ve been too busy to listen to.  Buy that single, red rose for the one your heart adores.  Take the time to have hard conversations, and to say you’re sorry, and to just listen.

Relationships make or break your life.  So take the time to take care of them.

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Cross-stitched flowers and Thankfulness

I’m a hands-on type of girl.  So sometimes I get real creative and actually MAKE presents for birthdays, weddings, or even Christmas.  I know, I know, everyone makes presents for Christmas, that’s not that big of a deal.

See, for me, when I make you something, it means I’ve spent hours scheming the exact perfect thing for you, and then I’ve spent hours actually making it for you.  It’s a reflection of my love for you, of our relationship.  Literally by the time you unwrap it, whatever the present is, it has become a tangible symbol of the prayers I have prayed for you, the dreams I’ve dreamt for you, and the memories we’ve created together.  You might not see it, you might just see a cup, or a plaque, or a book, or a blanket, or a dress, but that’s just a cover for what you’re actually unwrapping.

The thing is though, growing up, I didn’t realize how much of myself I’d pour into hand-made gifts.  I also didn’t completely realize (mostly because I hadn’t thought about it) that the cross-stitched, personalized plastic mug that I sewed just for you with your favorite flower on it might not be as cool as the gif card to Abercrombie and Fitch that someone else gave you.

The first time I realized this, it broke my heart.  I had given one of my closest friends the mug described above, and she hardly looked at it.  I don’t remember what everyone else gave her for her birthday, but they were all ultimately cooler gifts than the mug.   And then she proceeded to hang out with everyone else at her birthday party and practically ignored me.

And it hurt.

It hurt like someone had taken my heart and slapped it with a thousand rough-wood splinters, all digging deeper and deeper into my tender heart.

In fact, that’s one of the first times I remember confiding to my mother about something I was going through.  With relationship stuff, that is.

My momma was wise.  She sat on my bed next to me, and put her arm around me, and just hugged me for what felt like hours.  She let me talk and cry and sob, and she didn’t try to fix it (she couldn’t), but she did listen.  And eventually, when I quieted down, she told me that next time, before I started making a gift for someone, I needed to remember this night.   I needed to make the decision whether or not it was worth it to make that present.  Would I be okay giving a gift that might not be appreciated as much as I wanted it to be?  Would I be okay giving away something that precious if it wouldn’t be loved as well as I thought it deserved to be?

Basically, my choice was to be okay with my hand-made gifts meaning more to me than to the friend receiving it, and to keep making those gifts, or to never give a gift that dear again.  If I never gave a gift that precious again, my heart wouldn’t hurt as much.

I chose not to protect my heart that way.  I have made many gifts since then that have been carefully crafted for a specific, special someone.  And I have learned that when I make such gifts, it’s about the love I put into it, not the love with which it is received.  But it’s still important for me to give such gifts.  It’s good for my heart.  And, I like to think, whether or not my friend knows it, that the gift somehow blesses them.  That somehow, all the love and prayers and memories I’ve poured into it surrounds it and is absorbed by my friend.  I’m not sure if that’s actually possible, but I like to think so.   It doesn’t matter that my friend doesn’t know; she’s still benefitting from it.

The thing is, when I think about that cup I gave all those years ago, I think about thankfulness.  What cross-stitched mug has God spent hours making for me, that I have scorned because it wasn’t as cool as an itunes card? What has God made specifically for me;  that I receive but don’t appreciate to the fullness of the gift?  What do I take for granted, or don’t give a second glance to, that He has planned and schemed and crafted just for me?

I hope nothing.  I hope I take none of His gifts (or any of my friends’) for granted.  But I’m human, so I’m sure I do.  But I pray that God continues to open my eyes to the gifts around me that I am oblivious to.  The ones that He poured His heart into.  The ones that are meant as reminders of His love and His dreams for me.

Because He loves us better than our parents, our dearest, closest friends, our significant others.  And so His gifts are SO much better (and bigger, and more random, and more unexpected, and often crazy) than theirs.  Because He, the one who crafted YOU, the One who knows every atom of you, who knows what makes you smile and glow, loves you, and gives you such good, mind-blowing gifts.

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