Ad meliora

January 16, 2013

Every year my friend Chase asks me the same two questions: what three words would you use to describe this past year? What three words do you hope will sum up the new year?

I would never automatically describe a year in three words because a year is so detailed, especially 2012. But doing so forces me to focus in on what was really life-changing and important; 2012’s description would have to include: change, reflection, and thankfulness. 

This year held the most change I think I have undergone in all my life and forced me to reflect on who I am, what I stand for, and the support I am surrounded by. God has given me the greatest group of people who love me unconditionally and I value them more than words can accurately express. More and more it’s brought to my attention that not everyone is fortunate enough to receive the amount of love I receive. This reflection ultimately leads to me falling on my knees in thanks to my amazing God for all of his blessings. I know that this year happened by his grace alone.

My hope for 2013: yes, adventure, memories.

I want to look back on this year when 2014 gets here and have pages filled of all of the things that I said yes to. I want to say yes to life and all the new and incredible opportunities I get. I will never be this young again; I am only getting older and fear has no place in my life. I want those yeses to turn into adventures of all sizes. Daily adventures and grand ones. And I want those adventures to turn into memories. 2012 holds the sweetest memories and though they will be hard to top, I am going to do my best to do things that I will look back on and appreciate and cherish. 

I am not above new year’s resolutions; I made a long, long list. I always want to be better and if God teaches me something, I want to stretch and adapt my nature to his will. Feed the spirit, starve the flesh. I am blessed to be able to say that I hope my 2013 will look similar to my 2012 because 2012 was that good. 

Always towards better things.

 

Thankful

November 22, 2012

Every Thanksgiving I write a thankful post. It seems not much would change from year to year too drastically regarding what I am thankful for but in fact it does. There are the things that will always stay but there are also new things. This year in particular I feel as though I have a lot of new to be thankful for. This is probably because I am in a transitional stage in my life and that stirs up weirdness.

Firstly, I thank God for my health. I’m thankful for my ability to walk, to breathe, to see and to feel. My five senses. I am thankful that my mind is sharp and that my heart is healthy, that my pulse is strong, that my hands are whole. I have never been more aware of my hands as I’ve been the last few years while making art. They are my tools and without them I would not get to wedge clay or throw pots or push paint around or play the guitar. I’m thankful for my hands. I am thankful for my health.

I have grown increasingly thankful for coffee. It is now a part of my life that I cannot do without. I don’t just drink it mindlessly, in fact, it is the point in my day when I consciously choose to be the person I am. It is my experience, my quiet still. My morning motivation. I do get excited to wake up because I get to drink coffee. I know this sounds silly but it is true, I love it so much. I started drinking coffee in college and it has been the activity and catalyst for many of the deepest conversations I’ve ever had. And many, also, of the quietest moments of my life. God meets me when I have a cup of coffee. I don’t know if any of you can relate to that but it is a happy thing.

I am thankful for my family. This can’t actually be summed up in a paragraph because it is a vast and incomprehensible matter. I am thankful that my family is healthy and whole. I am thankful for my extended family, as well, and for the fact that they all love the Lord. Thankful that I don’t have to grieve the hopeless thought that we might not be together in Heaven one day. I am thankful that my parents introduced me to Christ. My parents are incredible and unparalleled. My brother is my best friend and my constant. I am specifically thankful for his humor, his humility, his perseverance, his spirit, compassion, and goodness. No three people are more loved by anyone than they are by me.

I’m thankful for Nick. I never really gush about him or about the love we have but it is something else. There’s not a day that goes by, even at our worst, that I do not love him more or find another reason to thank God for him. I’m thankful I am growing up with my best friend and that I have found another human that understands and encourages my weirdness, my passions, my faith. I have not gotten used to a love so big; I have not grown bored. It is my most revered blessing, something I don’t deserve and will never fully be able to wrap my mind around. No one knows me better or understands me more than he does and that’s a comfort I can’t really describe. After 9 years of friendship, nearly 5 years of dating, I am humbled and happy and utterly thankful.

I am thankful for the last 4 and half years of college. Throughout high school I was sure I wasn’t going to go to college at all; it sounded pointless and uninteresting. I am glad I went; I was proven wrong. I talk about Statesboro a lot because it’s my second home. I didn’t think I would find the friendships I have found or the love I was given or the memories I’ve made or the adventures I’ve experienced. I didn’t think my apartment would become a haven. I never imagined at the beginning that I would be grieving the end. Through college, God took strangers and made them my family. If someone is reading this who doesn’t know me or know my friends then just read this and think of your own bestfriends and the times you’ve had. Because I just have to thank those strangers that turned to family, if it weren’t for you I would have not grown to be who I am today. Thank you for your late nights and your long talks and for loving me and being patient with me and for being my solid ground. Thank you for a million laughs and prayers and dinners and drives and pictures and things I can’t even really put into words because they’re honestly just too extensive. It’s all so overwhelming. College has been a blast.

I am thankful for music, still my number one passion. The thing that still astounds and startles me most. I’m thankful for my church and my country and that I live in a country where I am able to go to church freely. I am thankful for every single friend I have had, especially those who have never left me, your loyalty and love does not go unnoticed or unappreciated. I’m thankful for the ocean, my car, technology, the holidays, time, art, and fun.

I’m thankful for a lot of things I never knew I was missing. Mackenzie is someone who has given me something I didn’t know I was without. I did not know what I was missing in a sister before she came into my life and I can easily say the last six months of college were meant to be spent with her. Sometimes I actually wonder if we were separated at birth or if maybe some of my soul is within her and hers in me because there are inexplicable and hilarious things that happen when we are together. I’m thankful for her and her love and her selflessness.

I’m thankful for my story and for the details and the moments of life that literally have taken my breath away. I’m thankful for the next phase of life I’m rapidly approaching. I don’t know where I’m going and that’s okay because God has done more than I could have ever imagined with the last 22 years and that makes me sure I am taken care of. I’m thankful in advance for the blessings he has for me and the lessons I’ll learn and the places I’ll go. This thanksgiving is so palpable, heightened, and distinct. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older and I’ve seen pain and experienced hurt so I’m more aware of my blessings. Maybe it’s just the season I’m in. I have never been more thankful for God’s grace. I have never been more aware or thankful for Christ’s bloodshed for me. I am so acutely and passionately grateful for my Savior Jesus. It’s through him and by this that I am able to live and appreciate all that I’ve just talked about. Oh, to grace how great a debtor daily I’m constrained to be. Let thy goodness, like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to thee.

Happy Thanksgiving.

On reading

November 21, 2012

Image

“If you find a girl who reads, keep her close. When you find her up at 2 AM clutching a book to her chest and weeping, make her a cup of tea and hold her. You may lose her for a couple of hours but she will always come back to you. She’ll talk as if the characters in the book are real, because for a while, they always are. Date a girl who reads because you deserve it. You deserve a girl who can give you the most colorful life imaginable. If you can only give her monotony, and stale hours and half-baked proposals, then you’re better off alone. If you want the world and the worlds beyond it, date a girl who reads.”

~ Rosemarie Urquico, re-quoted by Robert Patinson

“So many books, so little time.”

~ Frank Zappa

“There is then creative reading as well as creative writing. When the mind is braced by labor and invention, the page of whatever book we read becomes luminous with manifold allusion. Every sentence is doubly significant, and the sense of our author is as broad as the world.”

~Ralph Waldo Emerson, in The American Scholar

I am finding reasons to be excited about this thing called college ending and reading books is one of them. I have not found/made enough time to read as much material as I would like to. People would not believe it’s one of my favorite things to do. My thirst is for the arts, be it visual, musical, design, literature, imaginative, spoken, fine, crafts, type- all. I have to choose at any given point during the day what I can devote my time to, which medium. Which avenue. Some arts I can combine; I can paint and listen to music at the same time. I can write and draw at the same time. I can talk and wedge clay. I can view art and converse at the same time. But reading, reading books, literature, takes total devotion of attention. If I’m doing anything other than reading while I read, even listening to music, I feel like I’m cheating on the book. Background noise is even sometimes a problem. Because when I read a book I want to get so lost and become such a part of the story that I can taste and smell its words when they pass through my eyes and to my brain; I want to be there. I haven’t been able to do that because of my priorities. So, I’m looking forward to rekindling my relationship with reading.

Recapitulation

October 1, 2012

“…The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.”

Job 1:21

It’s strange how cyclical life is. I was reading recently a post I wrote on my xanga in January of this year and I was shocked to see my own words and feel their power in my current life. That’s why I think writing is so important; it is historical. It makes permanent the concepts that you thought you’d closed the book on. But in reality life cycles back and swirls together ideas, constantly pushing us forward and propelling us through the months. Until we look back and realize our stories are swatches of fabric of our own experiences tweaked and possibly relived. That’s what’s going on with me right now.

>>>——->

January 11, 2012

ive recently come to the conclusion, or revelation rather, that theres never a perfect time for anything. but there are divine appointments and for those, i am incredibly thankful. because another revelation ive come to is the intense preparation of my life before i was ever the catalyst for it. i am recently aware of the fact that i am the catalyst for my life, not the other way around. this has raised in me praise and appreciation for the Lords work. i am humbled and empowered at the same time. knowing that i have the God of organization directing me. whatever that may look like. the manifestation of recent inspiration has come through a series of unfavorable events. i didnt favor them particularly but i guess God did. how ignorant of me after all these years and after all these circumstances that i would doubt or worse forget the sovereignty that is God. its perplexing, really, the seemingly insignificant details that are the perfect stitching in my life. the major events like birth and baptism and relationships and travel are strung together by cups of coffee and sleepless nights and grains of sand and songs and songs and songs and hot air and long drives. now as i type this i am infused and exhilarated.

<——-<<<

Since this semester started some friendships have ended, I’ve made new ones, revived old ones. God gives and takes away. I’ve learned that honesty is the best policy, age is just a number, and nothing trumps a good cup of coffee unless it’s two good cups with your best friends. Each day that goes by is like another snap shot and as it’s my last semester I have been focusing on making art that I’m proud of.  I am making things I want to make instead of making things I have to make. The trend I’m seeing is the more time I pour into using my gifts and abilities the less attention I pay to unnecessary things. It’s a stress-reliever. The more art I make the happier I am.  I have a feeling that a lot more will be revealed to me throughout the next few months; God has been giving me clarity and I can only anticipate more. Isn’t it crazy how you can look back on something the further away you get from it and it only continues to make more sense.

My brother being in college has been one of the most life-changing processes for me. I am so proud of him I could burst. I have met few people, if any, more incredible than he is. Looking at my brother makes me so starkly aware of how blessed I am by my family. His character is influenced by my parents. My parents’ integrity and stability, love for each other, me and my brother, and the reverence they have for Jesus Christ and his grace and power move me like nothing else. I am continually humbled by my family. I could/will write a novel about them. My biggest blessing. I’m so undeserving.

There’s a little bit of bitter in every sweet moment. There’s a little bit of defeat in every laugh because time never ever slows down. And I’m beginning to think the older you get the more acute your experiences become, the more heightened your senses are, and the quicker the moments go. C’est la vie. Self check: am I making the most of it? Tomorrow is October, my favorite month.

stay the same; never change.

Finale

August 26, 2012

Week one of my last semester in college is finished. Last week of getting pointless syllabuses which I am perfectly capable of reading on my own time when I could have been making art instead. Is this breaking it down too much? Last week of meeting new professors, new classmates, new studios. This excites me! I guess solidifying the fact that I have negative desire to go to grad school. There, I said it. Still, God has a way of forcing me to do things I don’t want to do so let’s not rule it out completely.

I was talking with my good friend Catherine the other day and she asked if I’m prepared to graduate in December, would it be hard to leave now after most of my friends have left. This question demanded that I take the time to think about it- something I had been putting off (so Cat, if you’re reading this: thanks). I answered with this, “You know what, now it’s less of an attachment that I have to all the people here and more about the actual life I’ve made. I feel like God really allowed me to grieve the loss of the friends I’ve made over the summer, even the ones who are still here with me. So I’ve accepted that part. But now when I think about leaving I get anxious because I will be losing my home, technically, and all the customs of my life here. Not that Statesboro is anything to write home about, but it’s become something for me.” Then Catherine, and her intuitiveness, summed up all my jumbled thoughts with one sentence which I couldn’t formulate: “That place represents your independence.” And she’s right, it does. It actually represents more of myself than I knew I had in me. The most growth I have ever undergone in my life has happened in a place I will soon say goodbye to. That evokes pretty specific sentiment. And honestly, that conversation we had moved me to thankfulness for every experience I have had over the last four years. By ‘every experience’ I do mean the most jubilant as well as the most uncomfortable.

“Suffering has been stronger than all other teaching, and has taught me to understand what your heart used to be. I have been bent and broken, but – I hope – into a better shape.”
― Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

I know this semester is going to look notably dissimilar to any of the other semesters I have experienced, for several reasons. And I have the tendency to feel like this one doesn’t fit with the rest, like it’s tacked on at the end as an extra that I have to ride out or something. But I have to fight this notion. Because this is my story and none of it is accidental or coincidental and it isn’t supposed to look like anyone else’s. It is my own.

In perfect time with this is the breaking news that The Office is ending its run after the upcoming ninth season. This, for me, is like Harry Potter ending for those depressed muggles out there. This is like high school graduation all over again. This is the end of an era. No exaggeration, I got teary reading Tuesdays article about it. The loneliest I have ever been in my life was during my sophomore year of college and knowing this, God gave me The Office. I realize this sounds ridiculous but it’s true. I believe God made me in his image and made everything about me, giving me a mind with a love for humor. Therefore I believe God has a sense of humor. I also believe laughter is the best medicine and God knows me and knew that I needed a dose. So Nick and I watched nearly 120 episodes in succession that fall and I think that was the most fun we have ever had. It got me through the hardest time of my life. It is the most concrete example I have of God calling me to relax. And now every time I am getting overwhelmed I think about that time when he gave me the happiest distraction in the weirdest form.

All that to say I did seriously take the news hard when I found out about the show ending. I read the article with a heavy heart until I got to a quote by Greg Daniels, the original writer and executive producer of seasons 1-5 who is coming back to direct the final season. Daniels said, “You have a choice — only tell the beginning of a story and the middle, or allow a story to end.” And there it was, summed up in another sentence. It was like Daniels was talking to me, about the show, yeah, but also about my life. My story. I have that same choice to make. I can choose to hold on and draw out the current phase I’m in and dread the next because I am too afraid to let go and move forward, but wouldn’t that withhold the justice and honor that is due to this part, with these characters and this plot? Because our lives are a series of episodes and seasons and the finale is necessary. Bittersweet, yes, but necessary. Essential, really. And the beauty of it is that the end of one journey is the beginning of another, the only constant is change. And the only way to deal with it is to stop fearing and start embracing. Appreciate the experiences that turn to memories and understand that the further away you get from the ending the sweeter those memories become. Some of my favorite things are coming to a close and I will grieve the loss when the time is right but until then I am thanking God that these things began at all.

100

August 8, 2012

My favorite mystery is time. Time, like a living, breathing entity, being born and killed in the same instant, constantly. Constantly evolving, blessing us and directing us and forcing us to take care. I’ve come to conclude that when we take care of our time first then all the other things fall in line and are taken care of as a product. God stands outside of time and gave us a gift when he created it, created seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeksmonthsyears… he created our brains to be able to distinguish all of these increments as well. So then he knew the day we would be conceived and born and when I get to thinking about all of this I get overwhelmed. So overwhelmed that I tune out, not wanting time to escape me so I ignore its blessings. But in these times, when I forget to thank God, when I become dry and distracted by life, he drops hints. He romances me with patterns and details to bring me back to my senses where I can feel his presence and appreciate his sovereignty.

This started subtly and then grew bold. I went tubing down the river recently with my family. Unlike in Helen, Georgia, where you are never not touching tubes with the 100 people around you, in Ellijay on the Catacay river you hardly see anyone else. Maybe the occasional kayaker or fisherman but other than that it’s as though you’re on your own windy journey. From start to finish I felt like I was traveling on a timeline and every leaf that fell was an event. Every huge stone we passed was a mark in history. I felt like Phoebe Winterbottom in Walk Two Moons when she is taking a trip and said that for every tree she passed on her drive she prayed; there were a lot of trees. I did so in that same fashion floating down the river. We came up on a tree that had fallen across the river but had been cut so only the face of the stump remained facing us, jutting from the bank. It seemed as big as a car, probably. I passed it and looked back to see Nick paddling over to it and craning as far out of his tube as possible to view the alternating colors and count the rings, too many to precisely number in that fleeting moment but he stayed looking at it until long after the water had swept us away to our next point of interest. In that moment I saw something no one else did. I paid attention to someone paying attention to the details. Had he not studied it for so long I wouldn’t have noted this either. That tree showed me a hundred years at once. Like a signal, a blessing, a recommendation almost, to live. And, there, time had winked at me. On our way home the only radio signal we could receive on those mountain roads was a country station and Kenny Chesney sang to us, “trust me, friend, a hundred years goes faster than you think; don’t blink.” And there, time had nudged me. The next day in church my dad read James 4:14 and I was, as usual, humbled. I thought about the steam rising off my coffee cup every morning and how quickly my favorite liquid turns cool enough to not produce the vapor any longer. That afternoon we rode down to visit the campus where my brother will be going to school this fall. His leaving for college is something that I know I am not prepared for and my anxiety over this event is an example of a distraction pulling me from trusting God. But we got there and they informed us that his freshman class would be the first to celebrate their hundredth year of existence and there time blew me a kiss or two, or a hundred. And told me not to worry.

I started to recognize this pattern. Some things you think about a hundred times before they makes any sense. A little over 100 days until I graduate college. 100 is the number of degrees Celsius at which water boils. 100 is the highest number of points anyone has ever scored in a single basketball game, achieved by Wilt Chamberlain in 1962. 100 may be the number of excuses I make before I give in and do whatever it is I need to do. But I realized, after maybe the hundredth hint, that I have over 100 reasons to be thankful. Thankful for God’s patience. Thankful for his grace, for the gift of time and for his timing. Because if we believe God is sovereign we should never question his timing again. He is patient with me. Where is my heart? With worry, with wishing my days away? Chances are I have less than a century to live but every moment is another opportunity to position myself to hear the voice of God and live. John 10:10. Every minute is another blessing and I must not ever forget this.

We were at dinner on the last night of our vacation in Okaloosa Island and there was this one table open in one room with pretty twinkle lights around the one window and my mom refused to sit anywhere but at that spot. I’m thankful for her attention to detail that now allows me to tell this story. We ordered over the roar of a table next to ours that seemed a thousand feet long, seating possibly the most seasoned group of friends I have ever seen. The youngest of them being in their 80′s, the waitress, who was pretty weathered herself, explained in an apology for the less than peaceful dining experience. I wasn’t bothered, though, by the noise, in fact I was happy to witness them cackle boisterously over hearing aids that weren’t turned up high enough. They finished their dinner by the time we got ours and took at least another 20 minutes for them to say goodbye to each other and move outside. Hugging again before they dispersed. Framed by the one window with the twinkle lights, a strand that was so far from its typical home of December there in the July, Florida heat. And this scene was narrated by the waitress again explaining this particular pack’s tradition of gathering once a month like clockwork. In the same spot, choosing, as well, that one room in the restaurant regardless of schedule conflicts or business or even death. Yes, because on this specific night they were eating, as usual, but in celebration of the life of one of their own friends whose chair was empty. A post-funeral dinner. And I sat there speechless, looking back out the window to see no one left on the sidewalk.

Where my words were absent my parents’ filled in. I was caught, paralyzed in thought, in retrospect of my own 22 years. I was in the depth of it. A depth that mimicked the deep southern voice of the waitress named Jenny, I find out, explaining that those lifelong friends had had this custom for as long as she can remember of the 9 years she’d worked there. This morphed into my moms thoughts about that particular area of Florida and how pretty everything was and she went on comparing and contrasting it to other beaches she had seen and then to talk about how beautiful the water was under the huge bridge nearby. They call it Crab Island, this phenomenon of an immobile sandbar where tons of people gather from sunup to sundown, because it’s five o’clock somewhere. I don’t think those gatherers realize this, but through the drinks and the loud music out there in the middle of the gulf they’re getting as close to walking on water as possible. My mom said of the water, “it looks like something you’d see in Hawaii or in the Caribbean” and the waitress, in the most intense way said, “oh yes, the water, like dancing diamonds. Isn’t it.” To which I respond “absolutely” on impulse.

Revealed to me in that moment, through this unfolding of conceivable nothingness of a restaurant conversation, was a wrecking ball of realization, of finding color in gray and meaning in mundane. There, that room didn’t just serve a dinner for those who lost their friend; it held a jubilation of life. It was fish for dinner and a feast for thought. I was no longer next to the ocean, which is a blessing in itself, but in an instant it was dubbed Dancing Diamonds. The earth was now 70% covered in the most precious stone. There I was, at the end of two weeks of my life spent on the shore of jeweled sea that I had taken for, what else, granted. I thought of my own family, my own friends, and who would be there at the end of my life, whenever that day comes. I thought about the celebration of life. I thought about how divinely orchestrated it all is. I was humbled that night by complete strangers. By the wonders of the world and, above all else, the hand of the Creator of it and the rest of the universe.

I had a feeling that I can’t explain and it hasn’t left me. Just like I can’t explain the wind or the way the waves continually lap the shore or harmonics. I learned a lesson. This is a trend for me this summer and in my life in general. About appreciating where I am for the duration of my stay. No matter the circumstances. God intends for us to experience trials and we should count it all joy. This goes even beyond times of tribulation to places of plain monotony. Shouldn’t I count every day, even the most boring, as joy? Shouldn’t the stars still startle me? Shouldn’t my own heartbeat still baffle me? Shouldn’t I be still for one moment, let solitude surround me, let God astound me? To which I respond “absolutely.”

James 1:2

“I like living. I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely, racked with sorrow, but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing.”

~ Agatha Christie

May 11, 2012

May 8, 2012

Come to the  Betty Foy Sanders Department of Art at Georgia Southern University this friday, May 11, for the Undergraduate Exhibition Reception from 5-7 pm.

Hello world!

April 25, 2012