What I learned from my middle school self

I found them while I was looking for something else. They’d been tucked away in a storage bin under my bed along with other relics of their time. Shuffling through papers and old mail and doodles, the hard wood caught my fingers and my attention.

There were two of them, one slightly bigger than the other. A dark wooden plaque with a stone protrusion of a basketball and hoop, each with its own engraving: “Most Improved Player.” “Coaches’ Award.”

I’d nearly forgotten that this part of my life had existed. You have to understand: I am a non-athlete from a family of athletes. All three of my siblings play soccer, and my dad coaches. He also used to coach college basketball, my sister played, and my brother plays.

I am a reader and a writer. I carry around books with dragons and molecules on the covers and I like listening to podcasts. I take art classes, have participated in the theater, and am passionate about science and journalism. Gym class was my least favorite and when forced to play soccer, I was always goalie. My mile run is a number I’m ashamed to type.

I don’t remember what compelled sixth-grade bookish me to sign up for basketball. It wasn’t something I’d ever done. I do remember my dad taking me aside to ask me if this was really what I wanted, and I said yes.

I don’t remember this either, but my dad has told the story enough times. We were well into thee season–a losing team–and he asked me, “Are you enjoying basketball?” I said yes. “Do you think you’re good?”

I laughed. “Oh, dad, I’m the worst.”

All of this came back to me as I looked at the awards this week. It wasn’t that receiving them meant that much–winning “most improved” is easy when you started out as bad as I was–but they sparked a question:

Why don’t I do this anymore?

Not basketball. There’s a good reason I don’t do basketball anymore. But in middle school, I wasn’t afraid to try. I wasn’t afraid of being humiliated, because I was eager to learn. I wasn’t afraid to do something I’d never done before with people who weren’t “my people,” because the point was to do something I’d never done before and all people were my people.

Why don’t I do that anymore?

I don’t have a good answer. But I’m thinking of taking those silly sixth-grade plaques to my college dorm room until I think of one.

a

Overwhelm: noun

All of the worries and cares and
decisions
and deadlines
and plans pressing in compressing
under pressure about to implode
The unknown
Anxious for the abstract of tomorrow
and with a schedule so full I’m forced
to take it one day at a time
but always striving to stay
one step ahead
I can’t help but feel that my mind is behind and
I’m caught catching
up.

I can’t say how much I hate
when people say they’re busy
because all I can think to say
is you want to hear about my week
and they say wow
I thought I was busy
and I say yeah
I know
Today was the first day since
August
I haven’t had either school or work.
And here I am stuck to the screen, caught
catching up.

It’s like I’m being drained
slowly but steadily
restrained by dates and
complaints
They say it’s called decision fatigue:
Noun.
The tiredness induced
by a thousand little choices
can be greater than a single life-changing
one.
Except what if the little ones
also change
your life.

Overwhelm.
Noun.
The feeling of drowning.
A tightness in your muscles
and your mind.

 

UPDATE: I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately. I am currently a full-time high school student. In addition to classes, I spend Tuesdays and Wednesdays after school volunteering in a couple different capacities, and work seven-hour shifts Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. So basically the only time not already blocked out is Monday after school and Saturday morning, which I fill with homework and meetings and figuring out all of the other fun things seniors need to figure out. I thought I was doing fine, until I realized I wasn’t.

1. I have no flexibility or opportunity for spontaneity. If my friends say hey do you want to go see a movie tonight, the answer will always be no. I had to consign my sister twenty minutes on her birthday, and that required going to work late, but that was the only day it could work, so that’s what we did.

2. I make it work, but I’m tired all the time. This is not good for me, and it is not good for the people who have to deal with me. ‘Nuff said.

3. Most importantly, though, it means saying no to basically everything but those few things. I’m so locked in on those few things that I’m neglecting basically everything else, especially the people in my life who are actually the most important part of it. And I mean seriously, I’m working at a frozen yogurt shop. Like it’s a job, and I’m doing it to save for college. Oh, yeah, I gotta save for college. But when even my dad, who’s really anti-debt, goes listen, it’s okay, it’s not that much money anyway–and believe me, he’s right–he has a point. Even one of my friends was like hey, you know friends are more important than work, right and I was like OUCH because she is so right and I really, really miss them. I really, really do.

Basically, the upshot is that by trying not to miss out, sometimes you miss out on what really matters.

A few weeks ago before I started realizing any of this, I put in a new availability so I’ll work more during the week (i.e. Monday) and not Saturdays, most of the time, so in a few weeks that will kick in. Maybe that will be enough, but I’m thinking about taking an extra day off because not only do I not see friends or family but I’m also missing out on my senior year. This is the last one. And I want to be able to say I at least made something of it. So something’s got to change, I think.

So that’s where I’m at. Thanks for listening, guys.

–Bre

On changing the world

flowers1

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!

Antidote to Anxiety

What a wonderful summer it’s been! I’ve had the amazing opportunity to spend it in full-time ministry for nine weeks, teaching kids about God from his Word and sharing the amazing gospel of grace. I’m so grateful for everything that’s happened and the way God has been working in all of it. I’ve been tired, I’ve been worn, I’ve been weak, I’ve been stressed and sick and overwhelmed–but what life I’ve found in this. It’s such a beautiful thing, and my Rock is that God is faithful. None of this has been about me in the first place, no matter how much I may act like it in my pride. He’s shown me that more than once.

My prayer is that I can hold on to that, clinging desperately. School starts a week from now, and there’s so much I still have to do–so many demands and decisions and conflicting commitments. This summer, I’ve learned that when I’m in that place, of being totally lost amid the different demands tugging me this way and that and feeling like I’m going to drown amid all the work and all the scheduling and all the things on my list that have to get done–I’ve learned that there’s only one place to go.

In Philippians 4:6-7, Paul writes:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

He promises to safeguard your heart and mind. Safeguard. There’s something about that word. Other translations use words like keep, protect, et cetera, but there’s just something about the concept of safeguard that I love. Maybe it’s because I know I need it. When my mind is so full it feels like I’ll burst with all the things I have to juggle and all the things I have to think about and everything tugging and pulling me this way and that and my heart is a turmoil of mixed emotion and inconstancy–the idea of a safeguard, holding the good things in and keeping the bad things out, is a welcome thought.

wpid-wp-1439171517282.jpegI picture an actual wall, the kind of thing they used to have in the medieval days, where the outer wall was the first line of defense in your castle. The kind of wall that’s ten feet thick and made of stone and iron.

wpid-wp-1439171619277.jpegThis wall of mine, it has no holes, no weaknesses. But a wall, you say–things can get over a wall. You could dig a tunnel underneath or let fly an arrow over. So let’s add a nice force field as well. An impenetrable orb of energy.

Oh, and just for fun, how about some archers of my own? After all, the Weymouth New Testament translates this passage as “And the peace of God, which transcends all our powers of thought, will be like a garrison to guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus.” Let’s garrison this fortress of my heart and mind with an arsenal of truth.

Voila. I think God’s got me pretty covered.

If nothing else this summer, I’ve learned what a refuge prayer can be. I get so easily frustrated, so easily consumed by the little things that become so BIG in my mind.

But…He is bigger.

Despite all the doubts, anxieties, worries, voices, demands, expectations, choices, pressures, burdens, fears I face, the fear of the LORD is greater. Because when you fear the Lord, it means an awe of who he is. When you’re in awe of who he is, when you see the awesomeness of his power and his might and his glory and his strength and his wrath and his purity and his holiness and his passion, when you recognize who this God is–everything else becomes small.

The antidote to anxiety? Truth and trust. Bury yourself in His Word until you find what it is you seek. The beautiful thing is, his promise is always true. He is with me, whether I necessarily “feel” him or not.

Wash yourself in who he is. Recognize the truth of the God you serve, and realize that he won’t ever fail you when you trust in him, because he is greater than the problems you face. Love him, delight in him, until everything else seems small in light of him.

Psalm 73:26 – My heart and flesh may fail, but the Lord is my strength and my portion forever.

On Christ the solid Rock I stand,
all other ground is sinking sand;
all other ground is sinking sand.

May the Lord safeguard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. May you recognize him for who he is, and take refuge in prayer and in promise. May you build your house upon the Rock and live your life in light of eternity.

–Bre