About thirty days remain until I cram my car full of everything needed to conquer no-sleep nights and no-work days and everything in-between. Upland, I’m coming home.
A former teacher recently remarked (and wisely so):
You grow so much throughout your senior year of high school. You grow much more the summer between graduation and college. During your Freshman year, you grow exponentially. Between your Freshman and Sophomore year, you change in ways that often mean returning to campus an entirely different person - still you, but changed.
I’m certainly no judge of my growth, but when I look back at photos from one year ago and remember the things I’ve said, the ways I’ve reacted, the patterns of thought I’ve slipped into and the ways in which all of those have changed in the deepest sense, I laugh. “Did I really say that? do that? react that way?” Wisdom shames pride.
I recently found a crate of weathered papers and journals, dating back to 3rd grade, but mostly filled with middle school and high school ramblings. If I could write an ode that would properly praise all of my English teachers, I would. Any such ode would fall short of the gratitude deserved of these educators who saw glimmers of brilliance in my tenth grade writer’s notebooks which were scatter-brained at best.
Comical as the writings were, they captured well the person I was in each season. Yet in each, (underneath the layers of verbiage) I found a common thread. Each writing gave me a glimpse of the new Creation that Christ was creating in me, both during those seasons and in the present.
Praise God for His perfect timing and perfect love. I feel as though in many ways, I am relearning this summer some of the most fundamental truths of Christianity. I’ve found myself asking, “This truth is so basic - how has it taken me this long to grasp it?” Praise God for His perfect timing.
Another thing I’ve learned is that sleep is underrated. So instead of writing a host of paragraphs regarding growth and change, I’ve included bullet-points to satisfy the list-maker and keep myself awake as the caffeine wears off and the peach pie sets in. Some are little things, some are big lessons, all are worth considering.
- “Comparison,” said Eleanor Roosevelt, “is the thief of joy.” I’m learning and relearning and forgetting and remembering Eleanor’s wise words frequently. Each time I allow the latter quip to steep, the rich truth of a creativity embraced, quirks and all, floods my soul again.
- When you find a spot where you experience God best, become a regular. For me, it’s outdoors. When the Created enter Creation to praise the Creator, the result is worship.
- Never withhold love. Never withhold kind words. Never withhold encouragement. Never withhold the character of Christ.
- Listen without interjecting. Listen without judging. Listen with your full attention.
- Find those who make you laugh until your stomach hurts and your eyes tear and the room spins. Laugh with them often.
- If you make eye contact with someone, smile. Always. No excuses.
- Two of the most surprising and rewarding friend-finders: music and prayer. Spotify messaging and collaborative playlists have become a gem.
- Always keep extra coffee mugs and coffee on hand.
- If at a coffee shop, always strike up a conversation with your barista.
- Make space in your life for solitude.
- A good cry is a necessity. For fellow college students, the shower, the car and the prayer chapel bathroom are excellent, because sometimes the tears just need to flow.
- The best conversations are often spontaneous and after midnight. If cookie dough is involved, it’s frosting on the cake of intentional community.
- Make Sunday a Sabbath. For me, that means a slow morning, church, a late brunch, an afternoon of Bible study and this playlist, sitting out on Olson beach on blankets and small groups before preparing for a week of classes. Whatever that means for you, it is well worth it.
- Write letters. Send some, keep others, never throw them away.
- Take photos of the things that make you feel something, any little thing more than your usual existence.
- Look for the beautiful unfolding of God’s glory in others. Spiritual friendships are the richest blessings and are found when one sees in another glimpses of who Christ is making them into and they journey together toward ultimate completeness in eternity. Find those friends; be those friends.
- Dream a little. Dream a lot.
- Learn how to ask the great questions. Don’t settle for quick answers - dig deep, care deeper.
- Give yourself room to fail.
I've learned much and I'm learning more. I'm learning more of how broken I am and how whole Christ is. I'm learning how my need for Him is great and His desire for me is greater. I'm learning that I have the power to wound and He has the power to heal. Praise God for a lifetime of growing, a lifetime of learning and a never-ending supply of underserved grace.