Distracted

Distraction has become a habit.

The world is a busy place. “Busy” is the new “fine.” How are you doing? How are things? How’s life? It’s fine. It’s busy. Busy but fine.

Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who’s the most distracted one of all?

Huh, that’s funny. The reflection’s not changing.

I am a full-time high school student, scrambling to not just get college applications in but also to do interviews, apply for scholarships, fill out information for honors programs, and schedule visits. In addition, I work about 20 hours a week, volunteer twice a week, head the school newspaper, and try my best to have a social life.

Distracted.

It’s funny how even the busiest of us still find times for our phones, though, isn’t it? For the internet? Goodness, I love the internet. I think it’s a wonderful place. But it’s another

distraction

meant to ease our minds. But does it?

Listen, the reality of it is, I can’t really simplify my life all that much. I have to go to school, I have to navigate this college chaos, I have to work in order to save for said college. But I can change my outlook on it.

I’m a fairly anxious person. I don’t show it that much. I’ve gotten better in the last few years at dealing with it. There were some cool but not super fun ways God has made me more resilient. But I have this color-coded schedule glaring up at me as I type and it’s just so

distracting.

Most of my anxiety is future-oriented. I’m a pretty future-oriented person. I have a hard time relaxing now knowing I have work to do later. Even when I’m in the moment of something part of my brain is worrying about the other three things I have to get done that day and mentally calculating the time I’ll have to do them and when on earth will I have the chance to refuel and it’s completely crowded, drowning,

distracted.

Learning to live in the moment is less about not planning for the future and more about, as my dad says, “controlling the controllables.” When I’m in school, I can’t also be working or planning. When I’m with friends, I can’t also be writing an essay or doing an interview. So controlling the controllables means looking at where I am and saying, “What am I doing right now?” and doing that to the best of my ability, with my whole mind, rather than letting it splinter.

“For I have learned in whatever situation the secret of being content.” I was talking about this verse with my Pre-K Sunday school class this morning and I asked them why they thought Paul could be content, why he could be joyful and satisfied, even when crazy things were happening. The answer? “When I am afraid I will trust in God, I will trust in God, I will trust in God. When I am afraid I will trust in God, in God whose Word I pray.” I will trust in God, whose Word I pray.

(This is a quick side note, but the Word of God is the most incredible thing. The words wash over you in this way that is both refreshing and restorative and cleansing and yet also cuts straight to the heart.)

Lord, teach me the secret of being content! Let me trust you not just with my words or even actions but with my heart. I will go out on the limb, I will scale the mighty summit, I will step into the waves, just keep my eyes above. Thank you, Jesus!

“Lift up your eyes on high, and see! Who created these? He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name, by the greatness of his might, and because he is strong in power: not one is missing.

“Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, ‘My way is hidden from the Lord, and my right is disregarded by my God’? Have you not known? Have you not heard? He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength.”  (Isaiah 40)

It’s funny how when we remember who exactly our God is, everything else goes strangely dim.

May you not strive to control the uncontrollables, but remember who can.

Blessings,
Bre

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It’s NOT fair

Someone explained to me the concept of stewardship vs. ownership this way: When you own something, and you let someone borrow it, you tend to be pretty clear that sure, you can use it, but DON’T FORGET IT’S MINE. (Don’t laugh, you know it’s true.) And God, he’s the same way. Not in a petty way, but in a this-is-a-gift-from-the-King-of-the-Universe kind of way. Don’t forget it’s his. “Ownership” is the false perception that you’re in control; stewardship is recognizing who really is.

2 Corinthians 8:1-9 talks about not just giving to God out of the extra. Because that’s what we tend to do, isn’t it? But if we really set our eyes on the end goal here, if we really believe that this world is not our home, then isn’t it true that whatever successes to which we lay claim, whatever secret treasures we tuck away, whatever castles we build are really all just made of sand?

But that’s hard though, right? Because this world, well, we can say we’re strangers in a strange land, that this isn’t our final destination or our true home, but…it’s all we can see. All we feel like we’ve ever known. Maybe that’s why, in the everyday miracles of life, God gives us a glimpse of eternity.

It’s in the bride and groom, smiling into each other’s eyes and seeing only beauty and joy as they are united as one.

It’s in the father telling his son “I love watching you play,” after every game, win or lose.

It’s in the fact that even when all seems lost, the sun is still going to rise tomorrow morning, and it’s never too late to start over.

It’s in the sisters who argue over shower time, but when it comes down to it will always defend each other.

It’s in the phosphatase of your cells, just one of the millions of enzymes, each one without which your cells couldn’t live.

It’s in the best-selling, under-read book that secretes truth that cleaves between heart and soul, bone and marrow, and that gives a foundation of rock in a sinking-sand world.

It’s in the things we overlook, the everyday, mundane miracles, the little hidden messages of God, saying, I’m here.

Because sometimes, it’s so easy to forget. Because I feel sometimes like I’m drowning, under the weight of the expectations, demands, standards, responsibilities, pressures, choices, decisions–the heaviness of it all threatens to crush me and I want to complain that I don’t deserve this but the fact that I have the option to choose these things puts me in a really, really privileged place.

And you know what? Sometimes life isn’t fair. But this world is not our home.

In closing, I wanted to share a poem I wrote last April bemoaning my frustrations when it connected that you know, my frustration and exhaustion and overwhelm and indecision and demands really do suck, but there’s a whole lot of things that really suck a lot more, and probably don’t have half as much volume. And maybe, just maybe, despite how worn and fed up and irritated and exhausted and wanting-to-scream-into-a-pillow-feeling I am, the real question should honestly be, how much more can I give? Because in reality, this world is NOT my home, and all these castles, they’re made of sand, and will be worn away with a single wave unless I find for myself a foundation of stone.

 

It’s not fair
That I try till I cry
and I’m never recognized
It’s not fair
that I’m putting all my time into this
and still expected to live
up to everything else.
It’s not fair
the expectations and standards, requirements and demands
the time I don’t have;
I’m struggling to stand and
It’s not fair
that kids are abused
and women are used
and some are refused
respect
based on the color of their skin
It’s not fair
that the world we’re in’s
so full of sin
that no one can win
It’s not fair
that children in Africa are forced to drink
the same water that killed their mothers
because they have no other option
It’s not fair
that we live in a world of illusion
absorbed in self-delusion
and all are refusing
to listen
to the cries
of the invisible broken.
We’re all human together!
We can stare at the stars
or stand in the dark
or just watch from afar
and ignore the suffering of our brothers
We made it to the moon, but somehow
we still can’t reach each other.
We’ll never find justice, till we stand with one another
and say
and shout
and sing aloud
with one voice:
This.
Is.
Who.
We.
Are.

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

Don’t be like the rest of them

This poem is really meant to be read out loud. Exactly as I pictured it, speeding and slowing and rising and falling like water tumbling smoothly over rocks but instead, instead the best I can do is type it out, divide it into lines, and hope that some shred of its music is retained.

Don’t be like the rest of them, darling.
Don’t listen to those voices.
You could fall or you could fly
but either way you’re in the sky so
darling, don’t let the stars in your eyes
be taken away
by the voices that say “no”–
no, don’t let them fade!
When it feels like you’re striving
and you’re all on your own and you’re trying,
oh, you’re trying so hard and you still dream of flying
but the world
keeps you chained.
Gravity
makes you stay.
Caught up in the fast-paced
never-ending race
and you run till you’re red in the face
but it’s all in a daze
until one day you wake,
until you wonder,
until you choose to try going the opposite way.
You’re a salmon
struggling upstream, carving your way through the crowd
so many voices ring loud, saying
Hey
Wrong
Quit
Can’t
Failure
Foolish
Incapable
You’re never going to make it.
And then you start to believe it but no
No, if you keep on going
the crowd keeps on swimming away
swept by the current but you–
you’re standing,
standing on top of a mountain
that you dared to climb
because you realized
that it’s worth it
to try
running the opposite way.
Don’t be like the rest of them, darling.
You could fall or you could fly
but either way you’re in the sky
and I believe you, will, rise
to the heights
and dance
with the stars that are
reflected in your eyes.
Please–
please, don’t lose that light.

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