Restoration

I feel useless here.  I know I’m not useless – I know.  But I saw him in the hospital – small and weak and sleepy.  My grandfather was fine in August.  He was young in August.  I left for school the same way I always left: with a hug, and an “I love you.”  If I would’ve known that he would be so small and weak and sleepy in November, I would like to say that I would’ve said something more, in August.  But how could I have known?  How does something take over an entire person in just a few months?  I have never seen my grandfather look old.  And now, he looks old enough to make him like a child again, frail.  Breakable.  But all I am doing is sitting in a classroom, staring a computer, putting together hypothetical projects and trying not to complain too much (and failing, I think).  I could be at the hospital, keeping him company.  I could be at home, making dinners and doing laundry and putting up Christmas decorations.  I could be doing so much more.

But I am giving presentations, rehearsing scenes, making up fake nonprofits, and studying for gen-ed exams.  For the first time in my life, I don’t understand how school makes a difference.  I can’t see how this matters.

I am such a Martha, always moving, always busy – and I think in my mind I am convinced that if only I could just be done with this semester, then I would be less Martha and more Mary, doing what really matters.  I could take care of my family.  I could be present and helpful.  Surely, Martha is concerned with things that do not last, but Mary is content with the meaningful, busy with the important details.  If only I weren’t so busy, if only I weren’t so stuck in a place where I feel useless, then perhaps I could be a better daughter, a better granddaughter, a better servant of the Lord.  I could be more like Mary, if only.

Mary was busy with important things, like family and Christmas decorating and laundry and hospitals and –

Oh.

“Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what He taught.”

Even if I thought I could be like Mary, I think I would be an awful Mary.  Because all I’d be doing is trading one busy-ness for another.  One stress for another.  One I-can-do-this-on-my-own mindset for another.  It’s not to say that being with my family isn’t important.  It is.  And yes, maybe school is rightfully on the back-burner.  But something is broken inside of me, and being in another place, even if I would be better off there for now, isn’t going to fix me.

Martha was stressed.  She was concerned with the world: with fixing dinner and tidying the house because oh my word the Lord was in her home.

The Lord was in her home.  But her mind was in a thousand other places besides.  So is mine.  I feel useless because unless I am sitting at the feet of Christ, I am.

So what do I do?  I listen when he tells me that I need to glorify God in my schoolwork.  I trust God to have perfect timing.  I believe my mom, who reminds me that next week will come quickly.  I whisper it to myself over and over: The Lord is with you.  You are going to be okay.  You are going to be taken care of. 

And I pray, with fervor from some dusty corner of my heart, for healing and miracles and peace if miracles do not come.  I pray for my hurting friends, by busy friends, my patient, loving, beautiful friends.  I am loved in different ways, and I do not understand how I deserved any of it.  And I am allowed to love, too.  I am selfish and broken, but I am loved and I love.  As death and stillness hang over me, abundant joy surrounds me, engulfs me.  Nativities appear around me, delicate porcelain babies placed in tiny mangers meant to remind me of the One who vanquished death and stillness.

It doesn’t feel vanquished.  Right now, it feels powerful.

“But the Lord said to her, ‘My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details!  There is only one thing worth being concerned about.  Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.'”

So until I find the feet of my Lord, setting aside the projects and the exams and the hospitals and the laundry, I will find purpose in none of it.  The desert is getting tiresome now.  I have been here for too long, dancing on the edge of the mirage and convincing myself that I spend enough time in the oasis to justify my wanderings.  Lead me to the well, draw up a bucket of the good stuff, the living stuff, and pull me into the living room.  I will pull up a patch of floor, and I will listen to Him here.  This will not be taken away from me.

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In Which I Ask Questions of the Internets.

I did not want to start a blog. The idea made me uncomfortable – not only did blogging mean I had to let other people read what I had written, but it also meant I had to make some semblance of sense.  I thought I had to sell myself, a concept I hated.  I thought I had to tailor the things I wrote to an audience – some unidentified conglomeration of people, people who could reject everything I said or, perhaps more frightening, love everything I said.

I didn’t want to blog at all.

But I’ve realized, throughout this 9-month journey (and if you just tuned in to what you’re reading, no, I am not talking about the 9-month journey you’re thinking of), that blogging is not about other people.  I don’t write for the people who read my poems and thoughts.  I am stunningly blessed and humbled that people do read my thoughts and respond and say kind and amazing things about me and about what I write – but I don’t write it for them.  If I write something for someone, I give it to that person.  But blogging isn’t about me, either.  I do write because it’s part of me; it’s in my bones and my blood and my heart, and I can’t think clearly unless I see my words.  But I don’t blog to sell myself, or to affirm my thoughts, or to seek praise or understanding.  I know that I’m not always clear; I am often abstract and vague and I come up with more questions than answers.  And I know that people read what I write and come up with completely different conclusions than I intended or even thought of – and I love that.  I love that the words I write can mean something different for someone else.  That shows that they aren’t my words in the first place.  It shows that in spite of all that I am, the Lord still uses me.

I’ve come to understand that I wasn’t wary of blogging itself; I was wary of adding something meaningless to the conversation.  You see, I work in the writing center at my university, and one of the big ideas we talk about is writing as conversation.  When a student writes a research paper, she’s adding to this massive academic conversation that has been going on for centuries and will continue to exist long after her paper has decomposed.  In the same way, authors add to conversations about big questions, philosophical ideas, or fairy tale stories.  Writing is just the way we converse across the generations, across the miles, across worlds.  And the internet is part of our world, it’s part of the way we communicate.  But there is so much nothingness to the internet conversation.  Granted, there is an immense amount of thoughtfulness, creativity, and light in this part of our conversation; but there are also piles and piles of empty words to sift through.  Bloggers who buy followers, artists who put their craft second and their fan-base first, individuals who choose to sell mediocre ideas to people rather than invest in the ideas they’re passionate about.  Empty words.  And I didn’t want my words to become empty.

The coolest thing happened.  When I decided to be different, to choose to be who I am and allow God to work in whatever way He wanted, the fear dropped away and I ran out of excuses.  I stopped fearing meaninglessness.  I even got a little better at handling compliments and affirmation and encouragement.  I’m getting there.  My words still feel inadequate – and they should.  My words can never be enough to communicate the vastness of God or the beauty of autumn nights or the fluttery feeling you get in your stomach when you think about the future or the way you’re blessed.  I can’t caption Creation.

But I also can’t let my inability keep me from writing anyway.  No matter how exhausted I might be.

Because here is where my head is now: nine months ago, I didn’t want a blog.  Then I started to write and God worked in me to refocus my heart on Him.  But this semester, things are a bit more challenging.  As part of some of my classes, I am now responsible for three additional blogs, plus this personal one.  Two of the blogs are for a virtual communication class, and one is for an advocacy class.  The virtual communication blogs are very much focused on “selling” ideas, an organization, myself.  Of course, we’re told to go about it in a Christ-centered way – we’re meant to be authentic, relational, quality – all while churning out a high volume of posts, attracting followers, conforming to a short-attention-span culture.  The blog for my advocacy class is less follower-focused, but the concept is still similar: create for your audience.  And everything in me screeches to a halt in protest.  This is everything I didn’t want.

I see huge value in social media as a tool for companies and organizations.  There is definitely an opportunity to use social media to promote ideas and products.  But there is still some wall within me, something telling me that this isn’t right, that it can’t make sense to use my words as tools on one platform and then come back here and let my words be used by the Lord.

Is there a difference?  Am I thinking too much (which is, admittedly, highly probable)?  Maybe there isn’t a delineation.  I know the Lord uses everything, whether the small-c creator is aware of it or not, but I still don’t understand why it seems like it doesn’t line up.  These class blogs are all about learning to be effective online communicators, but there is theory and strategy and some veiled sort of manipulation in that.  And on this blog, I don’t plan or strategize.  I write.  I fall apart on this (metaphorical) paper, or I come back together again.  I ask questions and get lost and find pieces of myself and of God.  Isn’t that effective?  Is “effectiveness” my goal?

This is one of those posts that just has to end.  I could search for answers, but maybe I just need to let my thoughts sit.  I would love to hear yours as well.

This is truly the most un-Courtney-ish blog post I’ve ever written.  I need to write some poems or something.

Are you still listening?

Time and time again, I promised myself that I would not apologize for what I wrote.  I never wanted to preface everything with disclaimers, and I swore to be honest.  I never wanted this blog to be structured or planned, and though I knew it would never be smart for it to become a journal, I wasn’t about to let it become an agenda, either.  That’s why I rarely read other blogs – so many are so artificial, as if I were walking into a virtual store dedicated to t-shirts and posters bearing the blogger’s face, emblazoned with some kitschy motto.  I didn’t want my words to become a product.  I just wanted them to make sense to someone else.

This blog has become exactly what I envisioned.  It’s real.  This is me, in all my dusty, twisty glory.  The onslaught of poetry in the past few days is the product of some weird sort of soul disease – all these words keep hitting me, at the most random times.  One of my friends told me once that he speaks his poems, then has to write them down as they come.  I thought it was such an odd concept at first.  My poems never came like that; they could only be born on the page.  I couldn’t just think up lines and then build around them.  Stuff just came as a package, you know; fully formed stanzas with a beginning, middle, and end.

But God set something off in me this week.  Last night, I couldn’t sleep because every time I began to drift off, a new line came to me and I had to get up to write it down.  This weekend, I wrote two or three poems every night, one right after the other, even though I have about seventeen million other things I should’ve been doing (like studying for that degree I’m attempting to attain, you know).  A few of them made it here, but many remain tucked away in my journal.  I am grateful for the insight the Lord has been granting me lately (and I’m calling it “insight” in spite of the fact that it feels like “sheer and utter confusion and chaos” …I’m trying to convince myself to change my perspective).  There have been seasons in my life where all I wanted to do was figure it out on paper, but nothing ever came to me, and I didn’t like that feeling.  It felt just as much like a disease as this sometimes feels.  But having too much to say is probably a better burden that not having anything but yearning for something desperately.

This all feels very meta, very disjointed.  I don’t actually think I have a point – the frustrating thing about the Overflowing Words Disease is that I can’t seem to find where I’m going with anything.  Everything ends with a question mark, and I’m having trouble talking through it as well.  Honestly, I think most people think I’m crazy.  I’m blessed to have very tolerant, loving friends who deal with the crazy… but Lord knows what they’re thinking as I ramble on and on.  My darling roommate has put up with so much this past month: me, practically falling into the room at midnight, talking at lightening speed about my confusing days and confusing thoughts.  On and on I go, my speech interrupted only by my own incomprehensible sighs of frustration.  And she sits there, smiling, laughing, letting me explode.  And then she talks, and I laugh at her, because at some point in the middle of the night, we always come to the conclusion that being a college student has got to be the weirdest state of being and there’s no use trying to make sense of it.  I will miss her so much in a couple weeks.  She is one of the few people who sees me at my worst and still finds something good.

I guess I just wanted you all to know that I am in a discovery sort of place in my head and heart right now.  As if you couldn’t already tell :)  There will certainly be more poetry, and I hope you don’t mind it.  This is my place, this silly little blog.  It’s how I’m trying to connect.  As a communications student, I realize what an odd mode of connection the internet really is: me, practically bearing my soul for a bunch of people I don’t even know (and, as I’ve learned recently, many that I do know as well), often without equal reciprocation of soul-bearing.  If we’re going strictly by the textbook, relationships shouldn’t work like this.  Blogs shouldn’t work, because one party is being all open with a bunch of people who aren’t.  But I’m glad theory is less applicable than life.

COMING UP (probably… hopefully…): Camp has been on my mind lately, so I’m in the middle of writing a piece about everything I learned at summer camp and why I credit a large portion of who I am to camp.  And also, why I think every kid should go to camp this summer.  Also, in keeping with the camp theme, I hope to write up another campfire story soon.  Maybe White Gorilla… It is my second-favorite :)

Thanks for listening.

I Might Waste Days, But I’m Not a Wasted Life.

I thought maybe if I blogged tonight, I wouldn’t feel as though I wasted my entire day.  Normally, I don’t decide to write before knowing I need to write about something, so I sat around for a while trying to come up with something.  Of course, that meant I ended up wasting more of my day.  Which didn’t make me feel any better.

So then I thought about what it means to waste life.  In my head, things tend to get real deep real quick.  I generally try to go with it.

Ever since writing my last post a few days ago, I’ve had quite a few friends tell me they identify with the feelings I expressed.  You know – figuring life out, wandering foggy roads, trying desperately to trust God but questioning His ways.  Being stuck.  Being afraid.  To tell you the truth, I was sort of surprised that people felt the same way I do.  I don’t know why; I’m always surprised when I realize I’m not the only person in the world who thinks like I think.  I suppose I just expect most people to be more rational and put-together than I am (because I live inside my head, and it is weird in here sometimes).  Then, people come to me and tell me thank you for writing what they were feeling, and I end up having beautifully real conversations with friends.  I’m reminded, just like I’ve been reminded so many times before, that every person in the world is a million fathoms deep.  That’s why I love words.  Sometimes I am tempted to believe that my words are a puzzle only I am figuring out.  I think maybe the reality is that the things we do are more for others than they are for us.  Even if we don’t realize it.

It’s not that I’m happy that many of my friends are afraid of the next step in their lives, or that some of them can’t find jobs, or that some of them are pursuing what they love but aren’t as successful as they want to be.  It doesn’t make me feel better that other people are feeling the same sense of confusion and fear that I often feel about the future (or, you know, the present, occasionally).  But it makes me feel less like an anomaly.  It makes me feel more normal, and maybe a little more secure.  If we’re all going through it, surely there can’t be something wrong with all of us.  I’m not the only one who has crazy, far-away dreams.  We all have them.  We are all just as scared that we will never get there.  That no one will never notice us on our journey to the moon.

It’s not fair that we live in this limbo.  I know in my head and in my heart that Christ is here; that the Lord has made me exist for a purpose, that He’s made all of us exist for a purpose.  I know that.  But this curse thing is killing me – literally, which I’ve known for most of my life, but in every other way, too.  When the Kingdom comes, my friends aren’t going to have to apply for jobs that turn them away.  They will just do what they love, they’ll create beauty and goodness and the entire universe will enjoy it.  When the Kingdom comes, my friends and I won’t wonder if we’re wasting away our days and months – time won’t make sense, and it will be perfect that way.  When the Kingdom comes, I will write and write and write, and the lines I pen will come effortlessly; they will never be inadequate.  We will sit for eternities and talk about eternities, and walls around our hearts won’t exist.

I don’t like that the Kingdom is not yet here, and that everything is so uncertain in the meantime.  It shouldn’t be like this.  I don’t want to be okay with this.  I can’t give my friends jobs or promise them they’ll end up happy and rich and famous, but I really want to.  I can’t wake up tomorrow and do all the things I want to do, and I’ve barely even got a clue as to how to go about them.  I get that living the life the Lord has blessed me with is the thing I must do – and I desperately want to do it right – but I wish that I could do more.  I wish the Kingdom would come quickly.

I know I don’t have the ability to make it right.  Only Jesus can do that.  But I do have the chance to make it better in the meantime.  So, I’m going to do things to ensure that my life isn’t pointless.  To make sure that I’m more than just a bunch of words that never become action.  Most of my plans have to wait until this semester’s over – only a few more ravaging weeks – but I’m planning now nonetheless.  The first thing on my agenda?

Submitting some of my writings to literary magazines.  There’s a poetry contest with a fast-approaching deadline, and you win real money if they like your stuff, so that’s my first priority.  Even if I don’t win anything, maybe they’ll put me in the magazine.  Or, maybe they’ll send my stuff back and tell me I’m awful.  That would be decent news, too, I suppose, because then at least I’ll know (optimism, folks).  I think I’ll send a couple short stories in as well, just for kicks.

So, pray for me on that one.

Oh, and please PLEASE let me know if I can pray for you!  I keep forgetting to mention that I’ve set up an email address for bloggy things.  I have 599 unique views on this thing, but only one email.  It was from Google.  And that is lame and you need to step it up. ;)  Obviously, I know many of you in the offline world – and talking is highly preferable to emailing, so just talk to me.  About anything.  You’ll find that I like to talk about lots of things.  But if I don’t know you – and many of you are bloggy people whom I have never met – then feel free to let me know if I can pray for you or tell you a joke or something.  I want to hear from you.

My day still feels horribly lazy.  But at least I acknowledged it.  Counts for something, eh?