Sunday, December 29, 2013

10 of the Best Feelings in the World

Not an exhaustive list by any means, but here are a few of, in my opinion, the best feelings in the world and small moments in life to be very grateful for:

1) Coming home. Wherever and whatever home is for you, whether it's going back to the mountains with the sunset glinting gold over the horizon or driving back to your city after being away, when you round the bend on the interstate and can see that beautiful skyline again. Knowing that you have some small niche, a place of your own, an area where you belong and can be yourself and be comfortable.

2) That moment that typically happens around October of your freshman year of college when you realize that you actually have friends at this school and you like it here and want to stay. One chilly fall weekend, you spend virtually the entire weekend having ridiculously long talks with people over waffles and hot chocolate at brunch and then cramming far too many girls on your dorm-room bed to watch movies and laugh and laugh, and you have The Moment and realize you actually like these people, a lot.

3) The wonderful feeling when the unfamiliar becomes familiar and even comfortable, like wearing a well-worn pair of jeans. Perhaps it's the time when you're driving home from work at rush hour to your tiny apartment, and you realize you don't see this place just as the huge city with too much traffic and too many people--instead, you see your favorite park, your favorite neighborhood coffee shop, your favorite hole-in-the-wall thrift store. You know your way around, where to go for the best farmer's market or manicure or yoga session, and it's become your city. Or maybe it's the moment when your tongue suddenly and finally wraps around the strange cadences of the new language you've struggled for so long to learn, and you find yourself having deep conversations and conveying meaning in that language and you honestly forget it's not your own. And you say something funny and native speakers laugh and you know it's because you actually said something genuinely funny, not because you messed up the words worse than the soufflé you tried to make for that dinner party last month. (And this is even more true when you are living in the culture and have to speak the language just to get by.)

4) The feeling of being strong, like when you are running and you feel your heart beating and blood pumping and your muscles straining and your breath becoming a bit ragged but you just want to keep going anyway, because you're about to run without stopping for longer than you ever have before in your life.

5) Feeling capable and self-sufficient. When you fix the toilet or the chipped plaster or the malfunctioning garbage disposal or the flat tire yourself. When you move yourself to a new place, file the motion in court yourself, paint the kitchen on your own, write an amazing cover letter yourself. Or even simply being capable of taking care of the really small things, like doing all your laundry and washing your sheets and deep-cleaning everything, knowing that you've absolutely earned a hot shower and a night of takeout Thai food and a marathon of My Strange Addiction on Netflix.

6) When you have a moment of absolute, spontaneous, entirely unexpected connection with an unlikely person, and you have an amazing conversation and they just get you, and you realize you should actually probably be BFFs.

7) The realization that you are stronger than you think. That it's pure grit and determination and adrenaline getting you through, but that's ok because you have no shortage of tenacity, and you can and will fight for what you believe in and stand up for yourself and push through it.

8) Getting in the car to go on a road trip to the beach with friends, when you're totally stocked up on fresh playlists and sunscreen and novels and diet cherry Dr. Pepper, and you can already practically smell the salt of the ocean breeze even though you're still, like, six hours away.

9) Enjoying the unbroken possibility of the early morning. Drinking your tea and brushing your teeth and watching the sun rise, sitting in the utter quiet and gathering your strength for the day ahead.

10) Moments of brief respite in times of intense crisis of stress or pain or grief or disappointment. Brief periods of completely unadulterated happiness like the strange peace in the eye of the storm, whether caused by a night out with friends, losing yourself in a project or purpose that matters to you, or simply walking outside on a fall day and finally noticing all the beautiful autumn leaves. And realizing that you're alive, and life can still be beautiful.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Currently . . .

These posts on what people are currently doing/ feeling have been traveling around the blogosphere for a long time now . . . I'm stealing that idea and putting my own spin on it. Here's what's going on in my life, currently:

Excited About: Christmas. Duh. AND seeing my best friend from high school when she comes to visit me in less than three weeks!! And drinking hot chocolate on the couch with my sister while watching lots and lots of Hallmark Christmas movies that are totally reminiscent of the movies described here.

Working on: Nothing. And let me tell you, it is amazing.

Craving: Barbecue-chicken goat cheese quesadillas from this little hole-in-the wall Mexican place in Atlanta.

Texting: Juliana, Catherine, Maria, Ashley, and Jennifer. These ladies typically hear from me at least once a day each.

Inspired by: My grandparents, who have been married for SIXTY years, as of today. Isn't that fantastic?

Wanting: To find a job that I won't feel embarrassed about when people at dinner parties ask me, "What do you do?" To have something awesome to tell those people. With minimal stress and "why did I decide to get a law degree?!!" panic attacks.

Needing: To do exactly what I'm doing now: catch up on sleep, truly relax for more than 2-4 days for the first time in seven months, and be with my family.

Watching: All the crime/ FBI/ forensics shows on Netflix.

Proud of: One of my best friends, who just landed her dream job! Way to go Catherine!

Listening to: A bunch of Matt Redman. And Justin Bieber's Christmas CD.

Loving: Being done with my fifth and penultimate semester of law school.

Reading: A Moment of Truth by Lisa Scottoline. Mercy by Jodi Picoult. And yes, I did just go back and re-read my favorite Babysitter's Club book of all time: Stacey and the Mystery of the Empty House. It was sooo good.

Merry Christmas!!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Quote of the Day

This is a statement I think we could all really take to heart: "Sometimes, people will hate you because you're preaching the same Gospel that Jesus preached. Other times, they will hate you just because you're being a jerk. Quit doing the second and blaming it on the first."

--from Jefferson Bethke's book Jesus > Religion

Monday, December 16, 2013

Refreshment in the Valley of Weeping

Last night I found myself praying for a couple of friends who have faced far more than their share of grief and tears this year. Somehow, life often seems to work this way. When it's sunny, everything is wonderful and the blessings flow freely, but when it rains, it pours. There's often not a whole lot of middle ground. These dear friends have faced one loss after another over the past number of months, and my heart has just been breaking for them. I just prayed that God would in some way redeem their sufferings and make them beautiful, and that he would turn their tears into blessings. I had no idea where that prayer came from, but I knew I hadn't just come up with it myself, so I started flipping through my Bible (well, to see if there is a passage that says something like that. And there is.

Psalm 84:5-6 says, "Happy are the people whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage. As they pass through the Valley of Baca, they make it a source of springs; even the autumn rain will cover it with blessings." The Valley of Baca was a place right on the path toward Jerusalem that many people traveled every year as they made the pilgrimage to Jerusalem to worship at the temple. It was filled with thorns, wild animals, vipers, and all kinds of other danger, and because of the hardship people faced when they had to cross through it, it got its name, which means "the valley of weeping." It is believed to be part of the desert of Beersheba--which is where Hagar and Ishmael were sent away from Abraham's house to wander in the desert alone. It is where the prophet Elijah experienced a deep depression, almost to the point of death. Some scholars think it could also be an area that Abraham passed through when he went on his "test of obedience" to sacrifice his son Isaac.

We are all on a pilgrimage right now. Life itself is a pilgrimage, and this world is not our home. But as we are on this pilgrimage, we are bound to pass through the Valley of Weeping, probably at many different times in our lives, simply because we dwell in a broken world. Simply because it is not our home.

I can't claim to know what your Valley of Weeping is right now, and perhaps, you aren't walking through it right now at all. But I know that someone who's reading this is. I just know that, because brokenness is unavoidable in this life we lead. Maybe you are a new parent and feel terribly inadequate and exhausted and afraid of messing up and sorrowful even though everyone is telling you this should be the happiest time of your life but you're too depressed and tired to figure it out. Maybe your friend or family member was hurt in a car accident. Maybe you or someone you love has just gotten that terrible phone call from the doctor, and the test results came back positive. Maybe you just moved to a new city or even another country and you feel alone and wonder if "home" will ever really mean anything to you again. Maybe the relationship you thought was everything you wanted and needed has painfully fallen apart, leaving you shocked and aching.

Or maybe you have lost someone you love, and all you can even wonder is how on earth your heart can feel so empty and so heavy all at the same time, especially as the holiday season approaches and it seems like the entire world is happy and excited but you. And your chest aches because, after all, your heart is breaking. You fear growing old, because this person's death has left the biggest gaping hole in your life, and you don't think it can ever be filled, and you fear losing others as time passes and having a life that looks like Swiss cheese someday--ragged and full of holes. Because you are grieving and your nerves are shot, normal amounts of stimulation are just too much, and being around people makes you feel like the world is screaming at you, even though you can't bear to be alone. And even though you're sick, so sick, of crying, the tears come again and you know that this is your valley of weeping.

I don't have the answers, but I do know that ultimately Jesus went through the valley of weeping too, and He did it for us. And this passage from Psalms actually suggests that God can transform our tears into a source of blessings and refreshment. When you walk through the valley of weeping, you will make it a source of springs. God can even use our tears to be a source of refreshment in the desert. He holds every last one in his hands and records them in His book, because He cares about every one and cares even more about the heart they come from. And then he sends the rain to cover our own desert and our own "valley of weeping" with blessings, as our tears mingle with the rain of grace and flow into a stream of blessings. The autumn rain will cover the valley of weeping with blessings. The prophet Ezekiel wrote that the Lord will send showers of blessing just when they are needed. These are such beautiful word pictures. The very hand that formed our hearts sends showers of blessing to rain on our desert places, and to mix with our own tears to become an oasis of hope. In other words, God really does turn our tears into blessings, indeed our valley of weeping into a gentle, compassionate rain of blessings, like a free fall of His Spirit and His hope into our hearts.

And this is such a reminder that it's ok to cry. A lot of us try to be tough almost all the time, to not let our guard down, and to not express our true emotions. But I don't always have to be tough, and neither do you. Sometimes we need to shed that facade like last year's fashion and realize that there are occasions where we need to cry. If that's your life right now, I hope you will allow yourself to simply feel what you are feeling and know that somehow the Lord gently uses even our tears and pain to become a source of blessings and refreshment in the darkest valley. Thank you for reading--I'm praying for y'all tonight.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

One Blessing After Another

"When they cry out to the Lord because of their oppressors, He will send them a Savior and Defender, and He will rescue them. The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death, a light has dawned. For to us a child is born, to us a Son is given. He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end. But you, Bethlehem . . . out of you will come one who will be ruler over Israel . . . and He will be their peace.

You are to give Him the name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins. The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us . . . for from his fullness we have all received one blessing after another. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was very rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. For nothing is impossible with God.

He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High God. The Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever; His kingdom will never end. For the Mighty One has done great things for me . . . His mercy extends to those who fear Him, from generation to generation. He has remembered to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, even as He said to our fathers. He will give His people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace. On earth peace to men on whom His favor rests.

Now Jesus was the son of Joseph . . . the son of Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham . . . the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God."

(passages selected from Isaiah, Micah, Matthew, Luke, and John)

2013: Year in Review

As I think back on 2013, I realize that it has been an insanely busy year. As I think back on the goals I've had for this year, I realize that I have met some while totally falling short on others. I didn't run that half-marathon even though it's been on my goal list for seriously YEARS. (Oops.) I didn't read the Bible entirely through. I didn't travel abroad. I didn't practice a whole lot of random acts of kindness, I didn't always follow my rule to "say what I mean and mean what I say," and I definitely didn't have coffee with Chris Tomlin (all items on my goals list for this year. That last one was a distinct possibility since I went to his church for awhile! But alas, it didn't happen. Yet. :) I'm pretty sure I wasn't always classy, didn't always inspire others, and didn't stop to watch the sunsets nearly often enough--all things that, either literally or figuratively, I wanted to do more!

But I also did a ton of other stuff, and it's kind of exciting for me to think back on the things I did accomplish in 2013. I got published for the first time, with an article on patenting in biotechnology. I joined the editorial board of the law review and edited more than 600 pages for our fall publication down to every last footnote and punctuation mark. I traveled to Chicago, Fort Lauderdale, Richmond, Savannah, the mountains, the beach, and more. I had a job as a law clerk in a fast-paced litigation firm in the big city. I helped to coordinate a national moot court competition on legal ethics and professionalism, including writing the competition problem. I took a bunch of classes. I helped to research and edit a professor's article on neuroscience and criminal culpability. I competed in moot court and client counseling and closing argument competitions (gotta develop those practical lawyering skills). I learned how to do demands, interrogatories, petitions, ante-litem notices, and motions, and prepared trials, cross-examination, and discovery.

I did some things I've never done before this year--got a hotel room all by myself, went on a vacation by myself, and picked an apartment and signed a lease with no "supervision," parental or otherwise. I read some amazing books. I spent some great time with friends going to music festivals and baseball games and pool days and other fun things. I went to the symphony and art shows and Spin classes and wine tastings and birthday parties and some fancy dinners and networking events. I tried Chicago deep dish pizza and watched the sun rise on the beach and made some unlikely friendships with people who are very different from me but have taught me a lot about life.

But I can't stay in one place or sit still for long, and I am already thinking about what I want to accomplish next year. Next year I want to get a real big-girl litigation job--as a real attorney, not a law clerk. I want to pass the bar exam. I want to publish another article, run a 10K, graduate with honors, and win my first real case. I want to become a World Vision child ambassador. I want to speak up for women and children who can't speak up for themselves. I want to take a class or two at a nearby university, but only in fun stuff, like Italian or creative writing, because I'm not ready to stop learning. I want to travel to amazing places in the US and the world (first picks: San Antonio and Seattle). I want to own a Bible that's falling apart and learn how to be a woman of prayer. I want to be smart, curious, honest, funny, and compassionate.

I want to keep writing. I want to inspire and encourage people. Here's to a great new year!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

I'm Back!!

. . . . and done with exams!! This is the time of the semester that I always forget that other people have lives. That they aren't sitting on their couch in sweatpants all day studying election of remedies and the corporate opportunity doctrine and indemnification and the advocate-witness rule and writing papers on Establishment Clause jurisprudence. I have seriously done nothing but write and study for the past week, and it feels so good to just NOT have to do that right now. And I get to actually sleep tonight!! I had three exams and a paper due in literally a 48-hour period this week, and it was pretty much the most exhausting thing in life. I haven't worn makeup in a week and I've been wearing the same jeans like every day (don't judge), and I haven't worked out in 5 days unless you count doing tons of pushups and jumping jacks to keep myself awake during business associations cram sessions, so I'm seriously craving some gym time. (Come to think of it, I could just drink coffee to stay awake like normal people do. But no, I just do pushups, because I'm weird like that. And occasionally have a peppermint mocha too.) And now I just want to eat chocolate and watch tons of Netflix and BREATHE. (And clean my apartment, and do laundry, and make some real meals . . . )

To be honest, I have a little bit of post-exam depression right now, which is common and something I feel like most students have for a few days after finishing each semester. Paradoxically, the first couple days after finishing exams are usually emotionally my lowest points in the whole semester, and I know it's the same way for a number of students I know. I think it's because you've been working as hard as you can work and then it all suddenly stops, but even so, it's very hard to actually relax, and you find yourself feeling really worried about grades and really disappointed because you think you didn't do well but won't know how you did for another month. No matter how I actually end up doing, I virtually never walk out of a law school exam and TRULY feel good about it. Some I feel ok about. But for most, I second-guess myself like crazy and assume I probably didn't do well and then end up beating myself up about it, and trying to convince myself that I don't care about it that much even though I do care. I know I have overachiever tendencies and need to just chill, but after working crazy-hard all semester, honestly, I just want to get good grades and feel like it paid off! But it will eventually, because LOOK AT THIS:

Seriously. Is that not the most beautiful piece of paper you've ever seen in your life? And I've been blowing up the website for the office of Georgia bar admissions checking to see if my file has been assigned for review yet . . . hopefully soon!

And in other news--random thoughts about life right now:

  • I'm kind of obsessed with the Christmas tree I put up in my apartment! It is so pretty. I couldn't handle paying for ornaments because they're so expensive, so I bought two packs of Brach's candy canes for 98 cents each and hung those on the tree instead.
  • You really need to try these salted whole wheat chocolate chip cookies. These are single servings of sweet/salty/chocolate-y deliciousness. And because they're single serving and you're not being tempted by a whole batch, you can eat one without feeling like you need to spend 17.5 years on the elliptical to burn it off.
  • And you really need to read this article about how we can embrace single adults in the church. 
  • Along those lines . . . quit hashtagging #married life after everything. This has been a pet peeve of mine lately. This has nothing to do with jealousy. It's just . . . annoying. Not everything you do in life has to do with being married. Just because you do something with your husband doesn't really justify such a hashtag. If it did, every time I did anything, I'd be hashtagging it #singlelife. #notcool, y'all. And while we're at it, don't put 15 separate hashtags in one post because it's just overkill. Example: Posting a picture of yourself and a friend clutching cups of coffee on the street on a chilly day and writing this: #gingerbreadlatte #boots #scarves #cold #snow #christmas #friends #loveher
  • I really want to go see Catching Fire again. These movies are great escapes because Katniss's life will always be more stressful than mine.
  • This wonderful Bible verse: "The Lord stood at my side and gave me strength." --2 Timothy 4:17. Enough said.
  • I've been getting back into Pinterest lately . . . I normally get on this site approximately twice a year. But every once in awhile I get on a little kick with it. Lately I've been looking at how to do DIY craft projects with Christmas lights and empty Pringles cans and crayons and you-name-it. I might need to do some of these over break. 
  • I am planning to make up for my long absence from the blogging world with a series of Advent meditations. I did a series like this for Lent this past year, and it seems to have gone over pretty well, so I'm going to give it a shot and do it for the Christmas season too. 
  • It feels so good to sit on my couch and listen to Christy Nockels and write and write and write. I already got caught up in my journal, which did me a WORLD of good. I absolutely need to write every day because I'm pretty much wired to write and I have withdrawal if I don't. 
Well, that's it for now! Thanks for reading!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Happy December!

This is my absolute favorite month of the year. Cold weather, snow, everything related to Christmas, hot cocoa, gifts, holiday parties, lots of red, Christmas music (that I don't have to feel weird about listening to, unlike when I'm whipping out the Hillsongs Christmas CD in the middle of August). In December, everyone just seems more generous, loving, and kind. People give to charity more this month than at any other time of the year, and so many people go to great lengths to get the perfect gift for their loved ones.

So, I am looking forward to the new month. I know I have been MIA from the blog for the past several weeks and can only anticipate that trend to continue, with three finals and a paper due in three days next week. (I'm getting stressed just thinking about it.) But in other news, I finished my character and fitness application for the bar exam!! I submitted my seven-year driving records and my birth certificate and got fingerprinted and answered tons of questions about every place I've lived for the last five years and every job I've had since age 18 and references and student loans and mental health treatment and credit cards and criminal records (none of that, thankfully) and traffic tickets (also none of those) and personal/ family information and contact information and educational information and so much more. Now that the bar knows everything about me . . . hopefully they will find me fit and with the requisite character to sit for the bar exam.

And so begins the whirlwind of the next two weeks. I literally don't know how I'm going to get everything done, but I feel confident that I'll find a way to figure it out. And at the other end of the finals marathon is my absolute favorite holiday. Wish me luck and I'll keep you posted . . .