On changing the world

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When I was a kid, I wanted to change the world. I wanted to stand out, do something great, make a difference, leave a legacy.  I wanted to be the next Jane Austen, Albert Einstein, George Washington, Corrie ten Boom. I wanted to go somewhere no one had ever been before and do something they all thought could never be done.

When I got older (and for perspective, when I say “older,” I’m seventeen now), I started to encounter what cynical adults would call “the real world.” Stress. Expectations. Responsibilities. Pressures. Anxiety. Broken relationships. Bitter people. The overwhelming magnitude of the world.

Because see, when you’re a kid, you are the center of your universe. Your sphere is confined to the few places and people you meet in your neighborhood and at school, in structured, organized environments. But as you mature, you start to realize that hey, there’s something bigger than me. The reality that there are billions of people in the world, each one as unique and faceted and complicated as you –it opens your mind to new wonders, but it can also start to wear on your dreams. Changing the world is a lot harder once the definition of “world” becomes something so overwhelming. Really, it’s not realistic to imagine that I’ll be an Elon Musk or a J.K. Rowling, not when there’s so many people who could do it so much better than me. Besides, there were other things to think about. There were things to be done and I was busy, busy, busy just trying to make it through puberty, for heavens’ sake.

But lately, I’ve been starting to think that maybe little-kid me had something right after all. Not that anyone a hundred years from now will know my name–maybe that isn’t really the goal. But maybe I can make a difference–and maybe that has less to do with the billions, and more to do with the twenty other students in my classroom right now.

Because when it comes to change–whether it’s through a powerful book or an incredible discovery or, heck, a viral video–it has nothing to do with any of those things in themselves; it’s about the effect they have on people. Real people. People with as complex and wonderful and mysterious and full a mind as you.

And maybe a better measure of success than the list of achievements on your resume or the trophies on your shelf or the number of people who know your name, is simply to focus on those right around you, and on what you can do to make their lives better, even the smallest of ways. I’m learning to love my family. My neighbors. My friends. Those are the things that really count. Maybe all it takes to change the world is just 10% more kindness. I never forgot that girl in front of me in line who paid for my coffee, even though I don’t know her name or her face.

To me, being young and twenty means you’re in the thick of things, the stresses and pressures and demands of life, but you still have the clear eyes to see what really matters. May you sow flowers wherever you step and learn to love unselfishly.

Blessings!
Bre

 

P.S. This post was also featured on Jennifer’s blog, BEING Young and Twenty! Thanks so much to Jennifer for this opportunity. You can also check out this post on her site by clicking here. Blessings!

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The Ones Who Said Yes

I’m tired of saying to God, “You’re not enough.” Not with my words, but with my actions, with my thoughts. With my heart.

The Christmas story is a story of God coming near, heaven breaking open to earth. It’s a story of a God who would do that–and it’s a story of people who said “yes” to him.

Mary. Joseph. The shepherds. They didn’t know what was going on. But they trusted. That God was in control. That he was enough. That he was ______ enough. It wasn’t a big, bold move, of grandeur and glory. Its bigness, in fact, came from the fact that it was unglamorous and unexciting. It was gritty and grimy and unspectacular, because it didn’t culminate in one fireworks moment but meant a lifetime of living this way, a lifetime with everything life throws at you especially when you’re outside its ideas of what should be.

Mary was willing to get pregnant, Joseph was willing to take the blame, and the shepherds went back changed. The “Jesus scandal” wasn’t something that would fade from her reputation. The angels in the sky could be dismissed as hallucinations. But they knew the truth.

And it mattered, because they said yes.

 

This one goes out to the ones who said yes.
The crazy ones
The brave ones
The believing ones
The faith-filled ones.
The ones who are terrified
because it means they could be ostracized
penalized
last in line
classified.
But though they’re petrified
they will not be paralyzed.
They may be quiet
but their lives are far from silent.
I think I hear a rumbling
a mumbling
a muffled far-off thundering
It’s the sound
of a world about to turn around:
Something about it confounds,
astounds the earth-bound,
spellbound,
as heaven is unwound and glory touches down.
They are the unnamed
world-changers
earth-shakers
custom-breakers
culture-makers
change-creators
And all they did
was say yes.
I thought I saw the mountains move,
when what they knew was turned askew
but by a prayer they made it through
and came out with a changing view
and what do you know–
it changed me too.
It’s not that they knew
or lived up to
or had something more than you
but that they just said
yes.
And that was why the mountains moved
and the seas were made a walking-path
and curtain tore when skies went black
and baby lay with cow and calftorch clear
Because even though they were afraid
their answer was what made them brave
They left the shade
They didn’t cave.
It was unspectacular and inexplicable
Not impressive or incredible
and yet it’s somehow powerful:
They said
yes.

Who You Are

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WHAT you are vs. WHO you are: an intriguing and dangerous concept.

Intriguing, because sometimes I forget to make the distinction. Dangerous, because society doesn’t want you to.

Society wants to fit you into a mold. Society wants to file you away according to your appearance, abilities, academics, achievements. Your public successes and failures. The things you show it. The parts of you that everyone sees. Society wants to know what you bring it, and is never satisfied, always demanding more. If only you were ______, then you would be good enough. If only you could do ______ a little better. If only…

My biology teacher once told me a story from his senior year of college, when he and some friends went camping in the woods. They cooked steak over a fire and made some rocks explode, but as the moon climbed and the darkness fell, they began to talk. One had graduated and was in the world, working in a lab, while the rest were still seniors. The natural question they asked was, “What’s it like?” What’s it like, being in the world, making money, living the life you’ve studied for, spent so many years preparing for…

And he who had always made it in college by doing the bare minimum was in danger of losing his job at the lab because he consistently procrastinated. And he who had been on a six-month cycle of girlfriends, moving on whenever he lost the fun, was now engaged to the girl he’d been dating for a year but was afraid now to fully commit, fearing that down the road, it wouldn’t be “fun” anymore.

And he said, “I was preparing for what I knew I wanted to become–but not who I wanted to become.”

And he told them, “Figure out who you want to become.

Boy, does that strike home.

Especially when it’s so easy to compare yourself to others, and when all you feel like you should be doing is more, more, more. I get so caught up in what I’m doing, what people see, my public image, and hold myself to the impossible standard, and I feel like I’m only ever signing up for more, but all I ever feel is less.

And I feel like the half of what I’m doing are the things nobody sees. And I know it’s selfish of me, I know it’s my human pride. Shouldn’t I be striving to live the life that goes unseen? Because here’s the thing: most of the things that really matter, do go unseen by most. Those are the beautiful things, the worth-it things. The things that give life.

And here’s the thing, those things that matter–they don’t go unseen by the people that matter. They don’t go unseen by the people they directly affect, affect deeply. People notice, when you care. It surprises me sometimes, though it shouldn’t.

And also…they don’t go unseen by God.

Sometimes, when I think of God as all-seeing, it scares me more than anything. Because I know my heart. I know its dirt and dust and grime and dark shadows and cobwebbed corners. The things I hide.

But there’s something bigger about an all-seeing God. It’s called grace.

Not wishy-washy grace. This is no dripping, drizzling, downsized grace. This grace is drenching. It’s torrential, it’s tidal, it’s transforming. It’s whitewater, riptide grace. It tears you apart until there’s no part of you safe from the blinding light of grace, the light that’s like a powerwash on your heart. It stings and moves you a little bit, and there’s no dirt that can withstand the power of this grace.

And because of this grace, you’re a stained glass window. You’re beautiful to him.

And this all-seeing God, he understands. He understands because he crafted every fiber of your being, tuned every string in your body, wove together the strands of your soul and sculpted the crevices of your mind and fashioned the turnings of your heart–he understands. You don’t have to explain yourself to him.

This all-seeing God, he sees what you do in secret. He sees what no one else does. He sees the dirt and the shame and all of the things I want no one to see.

But he also sees the things I feel like no one does. The things that I want them to know. The things that I hold precious and I feel like no one else listens.

Sometimes it doesn’t feel like much, though. We take it for granted. We say, God, yes, I know my reward is eternal, but look at what ____ is doing. Look at what they get. God, I know my reward is eternal, but I need something now. How am I supposed to give up ______ for that?

We feel like God expects something of us. We feel like we owe him something. And don’t get me wrong–he does. And we do. And it’s more than we could ever do on our own. And we know that, so we do one of two things: we don’t even try, or we try so hard, we make our checklist of do’s and don’ts, and we’re never satisfied, and we see God as the taskmaster. But…he’s a lot more than that.

He delights in his children. He delights to see them walking in the truth.

That breaks me. When I think that God could actually be pleased. Delighted. Giddily excited. The God of the universe…smiling for me.

I forget so quickly. But that…when I think of that, that’s what drives me on. It’s when I think of heaven, where he’ll wipe every tear from our eyes, every sorrow will be erased and every trouble will be vanquished, every darkness will be conquered and every sleepless night disintegrated–when it all fades away, and there’s only him, standing there with open arms. When I finally see it–when I finally see how all of this, it was really nothing.

It was really nothing.

And all that’s left is purity of joy and peace and love and holiness. A purity that could never be matched on this earth.

So have hope, take heart, and remember–remember that who you are matters a whole lot more than what you are. Your love matters more than your label or lack. What you see matters more than being seen. Your grace matters more than your grades, and your Spirit means more than your status, success, or security.

He sees. Ask him to help you do the same.

When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. “Oh, my lord, what shall we do?” the servant asked.
“Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”And Elisha prayed, “Oh Lord, open his eyes so he may see.”
Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha….

2 Kings 6:15-17

Lord, give us your eyes.

Bre