What’s on your scale?

This year has been a wild ride, and it’s only March. Can anybody else relate to that? I’ve had some incredibly high moments where I felt as if life couldn’t get any better, but there have also been a handful of times where I’ve felt so knocked down that I couldn’t even see the potential for a positive outcome. It’s as if 2018 has been this weird roller coaster where all of the insane lifts and thrilling drops have happened in the first five seconds and I’m left wondering what more the architects could have possibly designed for the rest of the ride.

Earlier this week, I went camping for four days with some friends from college in Clifty Falls in southern Indiana. It was cold, snowy, and crazy beautiful – an adventure I wouldn’t trade for the world. On Thursday morning we all packed our bags, cleaned up the site, and went our separate ways to enjoy our last few days of break at home before going back to school. Normally, the drive would only be a little over two hours for me to get home. However, feeling confident in knowing where I was and how to get home, I turned my GPS off after about an hour. Bad idea. That “easy two hour drive” turned into a tedious four hour drive on back-roads and weird highways and me not knowing where I was until I was twenty minutes away from home. But, on the brightside, those four hours turned into prime thinking time.

Once I figured out I was lost, I turned on some worship music in hopes that it would help me to not stress over something so small. I started talking to God (because what better time to pray than when driving and lost hours away from home?) and I said something that I didn’t expect to say, and even though I was the one who said it, it had a pretty decent effect on me. I said, “God, please help me to understand that the weight of this boulder is nothing compared to the weight of life’s pebbles.” Okay, reading this I can see how it doesn’t make a lot of sense out of context. What I was talking to God about was how the two weeks leading up to break I was kind of struggling. I may have mentioned in previous posts how they were pretty rough weeks and even though I was doing what I could to stay positive, it was a challenge. However, I’ve always been one to talk about life’s little blessings – the things that make life worth it but we so often look over because they seem so small compared to the big things. But think of these little, happy things as pebbles – small and seemingly insignificant. Think of the big things, the things that feel like constant weight on your shoulders and seem incredibly large and important at the moment, as boulders. Now, place each of these on a scale. On one side, you have this boulder that’s representing your struggle, whatever it may be, outweighing the other side by mass proportions. Now, one by one, start throwing on the pebbles. A pebble for each of life’s blessings – for each good thing in life. Random acts of kindness, each of your friends and family, beautiful weather, the smell of fresh coffee, cheesecake, etc. Anything you can think of that brings you even the slightest bit of joy.

As I started to think about this, I quickly realized that the combined weight of the pebbles was much, much greater than that of the boulder. I think we get so caught up in looking at the scale and seeing the boulder as something big and scary that we forget the amount of control we have over that scale. Sure, the boulder is heavy and it will take a lot to outweigh it, but there’s a reason people write books like Happiness is… or 14,000 Things to be Happy About. It’s because there are so many beautiful things in life that are easily overlooked. But as soon as you look at them and add them to your scale, you’ll quickly realize that the good really does outweigh the bad.

Scattered

Have you ever seen a movie or t.v. show or even real life where a person is running through a hallway, rushing to get to a class or a meeting with stacks of paper, a cup of coffee, and other miscellaneous items in their hands, when all of a sudden something happens and they trip, sending the paper and everything they were holding flying, only to scatter everywhere? I feel like life can be like that sometimes… or a lot of times. Just when you think you’ve got things under control enough to get to where you need to be, something sends you flying. Maybe things weren’t exactly “under control,” but they were being handled.

Something about this semester has me feeling like that person who just tripped. Last week, I got caught with a terrible cold and had to cancel an important interview because I just couldn’t leave my dorm. Then, I drop my phone as I’m walking back from class, breaking it and leaving me phoneless until I go home next week. On top of that, I have two very important interviews on the same day, it’s midterms, I accidentally scheduled two presentations for the same day… the same Friday, and then a personal issue comes up that leaves me at a complete loss for how to respond to the situation. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I feel like God looks down at me and thinks that I can handle more, when in reality, I’m still trying to pick up the papers from the last time I tripped.

But then I remember a conversation I had with a few of my friends a while back. We were talking about a similar topic – about whether or not God gives people more than they can handle. It’s something I’ve thought about a lot, because there have been plenty of times where I have been overwhelmed and wondered why or how I got into such a situation. But during the conversation with my friends, I was reminded that life never gives you more than you can handle. God never gives you more than you can handle. Sometimes you’re just given what feels like too much to help you realize just how strong you actually are – just how much you can actually handle. If you’ve ever worked out or trained for something, you know what it’s like to have a goal in mind that at the start feels impossible to reach. Runners start out with a mile a day, but strive to run a marathon. Weight lifters start with just the bar, but aim to lift hundreds of pounds. Musicians start with scales, but dream of playing sonatas. We start out small all the time and work our way to become something so much greater. The only difference between those examples and the everyday growing that happens in life, is in life we don’t always set such explicit goals – we just grow stronger.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the chaos of our lives that we don’t realize the strength that we’re gaining from lifting the weight of life. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with taking some time to wallow in self-pity and complain about all that life is throwing your way – sometimes we just need to get that negativity off our chest. But at some point, we need to look at the wreckage of our lives and realize that the best thing to do is build from it. When you’ve tripped and the papers you’re holding scatter every which way, take a deep breath, pick up the papers, and walk it off. You’ll be okay.

It is well

When I was in high school I was very active in band and choir. I played clarinet for roughly seven years and I sang in the choir for two. In my time in the music department, I’ve heard and played a lot of songs that have spoken to me on a level that can only be reached by music or literature. However, no piece has touched me more than “On a Hymnsong of Phillip Bliss” by David Holsinger. If you have ever heard the phrase, be it in song or poem, “it is well with my soul,” this song is inspired from the story behind that phrase.

In the late-1800’s, a man was planning a trip for he and his family to go to Europe. Right before the time of departure, the man was needed in Chicago and had to stay in the states to take care of some business, but he decided to send his wife and daughters on the ship to Europe as planned and he would follow them later on. However, after a few days, the man received a phone call from his wife who had landed in Europe informing him that the boat had been struck during its journey and sank within minutes – only she and a few survivors had made their way safety, his daughters not being a part of that few. Soon after, the man got on another ship to join his wife.

The story goes that as the ship was sailing overseas near the point where his daughters had drowned, the man was overcome with grief but turned to God. Here he was, in the midst of heartache and despair, turning upwards to God and saying, “When peace like a river attendth my way / when sorrows like sea-billows roll / whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to know; / it is well, it is well with my soul.”

I played this piece at least once a year for three years in a row, and every time I played it I found myself in tears. There’s something unbelievably powerful about a faith so strong that it can give you peace at a time where peace seems unthinkable. I know everyone goes through heartache and they experience pain on different levels than the ones around them, but how often, in the midst of that hurt, can you remember turning to God and thinking that it is well with your soul? For three years now, this song, this poem, and this story, are a constant reminder to me that while trials may come and hardship will bear it’s way into my life, I know I will always be reassured of God’s support in my helpless state and it will always, always, be well with my soul.

Trusting Through the Storm

When I was younger I used to love the movie The Little Princess. It was about a young girl who’s father got drafted into the war, and because she had no other relatives, she was forced to stay in a girl’s home in New York. This girl was intelligent and outspoken which got her into quite some trouble in the house. Eventually, this young girl’s father comes back but she is not allowed to leave the house for various difficult reasons. However, at the end of the movie, there is a scene where this young girl is trying to get away and get to her father. She is standing at the very top of this house and there is a long piece of plywood stretching from her window to another. The weather is dreadful and the rain is pouring, but the girl steps out onto the wood and attempts to make her way over. Despite the rain, the slips, and the sheer panic, she makes it into her fathers arms.

Just like the young girl balancing out in the rain, there are a lot of times where we’re left with the choice to stay or to trust and cross. Isn’t it funny how it wasn’t sunny and seventy when she had to make that journey? No, it was cold and raining and nighttime – not exactly ideal circumstances for a difficult situation. But this seems to be how things are in life, too. When it rains, it pours, and we’re left dripping wet and cold. But, the thing about trusting and crossing through the storm is that in the movie, the girl trusted both herself and her father, and we should do the same. Because at the end of the day, He will always be there to catch us in His arms.

It’s no secret that life gets hard and things don’t always work out the way we hope. It’s just one of the things we sign up for when we come into this world. But even the worst things are bearable and even the largest risks are worth it when you know that, no matter what, God will be there to catch you if and when you fall. A friend once told me that he doesn’t believe God will only give you as much as you can handle – sometimes He’ll give you more. And maybe that’s true. Maybe God will give you more than you can handle because He can handle the rest. I guess sometimes you just have to trust – trust through the storm.

 

How’s your heart?

A few years ago I made the decision to go back to church and find who I am with Christ. There are reasons why I did this, but they’re not important at the moment. What is important is one of the life changing things that I had learned. I remember going to a women’s conference about a year after, featuring Christa Black Gifford as the speaker. I learned so much at this conference and I grew personally and spiritually in so many ways, but one thing I will never forget is what I learned about the heart.

Christa had talked about having a broken heart – things in her life had caused wear and tear and left her heart weak. As she talked about this, I found tears filling my eyes. I realized that I had similar feelings. I’ll be the first to admit I have issues and I’ve been left with scars on my heart from things that have happened in my past. People have done me wrong and I’ve been left to fend for myself by building walls and pushing people away as soon as they get close. But the more I began to identify what was wrong and where the hurt came from, the more I was able to fix it. So when I ask people how their heart is, I don’t do so in hopes of making them sad, I do it because I’m genuinely curious and I don’t believe people think about their heart nearly as often as they should.

There is a form of art in the Chinese culture where pottery is broken and glued back together with a gold-glue mixture. What ends up being created is beautiful pottery with gold lines painted across it in place of the cracks. This art-form is known as “Kintsugi.” I wish we could take our broken hearts and fill them with gold. Rather than looking at what’s broken as something that’s ugly and irreparable, we can find a way to make it beautiful. We can take the cracks that leave us angry, and fill them with kindness; the cracks that make us cry, and fill them with love; the cracks that make us judgmental, and fill them with acceptance. Change is hard, especially when it stems from a place of such deep emotion. Changing your heart is like resetting a bone – it may hurt like hell, but in the end, it will allow the heart to heal back stronger than it was before.

Our hearts need to be reset and made strong.

Our hearts need to be filled with gold and made beautiful.

How’s your heart?