rest

Spring Break is finally here, and I know that it’s going to run through my fingers like water, but before that happens, I’m going to try to be nourished a little bit.  It’s good to be home, especially after the craziness of the first half of the semester.  This was the most needed break I’ve ever encountered.  I was sick for exam week last week (as I always seem to be), and after the staying up too lates and the studying for exams but not maybe enoughs and general exhaustion… I was immensely ready for Spring Break to start.  Coming from the ice to the sun was startling.

Much of the time, I use this as an excuse.  “I’m tired” is my knee-jerk response to anyone’s “Are you okay?”, even if it isn’t entirely true.  And often I justify my own laziness by telling myself that I really need the rest.

And here’s where it gets so confusing for me, because I can never quite draw that line between merited and lazy excuse.  I always have something to do.  Even if I ignore it with outward laziness and the procrastination of watching too much TV, my insides are twisted and fighting with each other.  Even if I don’t have something to do, I’ve got something to do.  School projects are queued in my head in a different line than personal ones, and there’s always a story I should be working on, a goal I shouldn’t have missed, things I should have done.

It’s a hard mental balance for me, but I’m trying to learn, and I’m trying to slide that scale somewhere in between apathetic procrastination and frustrated perfectionism; between extroversion and the life of a hermit.  What often happens is that I end up staying up much later than my body can deal with because procrastinate homework, try to keep up with my own writing (in this and in stories), and eventually do that same work.  I’m trying to limn.

We need rest.

We need to take breaks to refresh ourselves physically, mentally, spiritually.  I should have learned this long ago.  Physically speaking, I am prone to sickness, and I need more actual rest and sleep than many people.  I keep trying to push myself past that, but I need to stop and take care of myself.

Spiritually speaking, I need it even more.  The Holy Spirit will never deny you peace if you ask Him for it, but I must remember to ask.  The most common excuse for not praying or reading my Bible is “I’m too busy”.  But even Jesus went off by himself in order to pray and be renewed (Luke 5:16).

And here’s the thing.  It may take up more of your time than you think you can spare.  But there comes a moment when rest becomes the priority, because you are no good to anyone killing yourself over your work, whatever it is.  The “wasted time” that periodic rest takes up is small in comparison to what will happen if you burn yourself out.

It happens all the time, especially with artists of any sort.  The manic sort of focus on your work can be good, to a degree.  Constant desire to create is comforting and wonderful, but you have to balance it with the rest of your life.  God himself rested! And then put the Sabbath into place – not for us to follow the rules, but for us to have a set time of not working.  Sure, maybe I use my exhaustion as an excuse to be lazy sometimes.  But I think it’s better to give yourself room to breathe.  

So, no.  I probably won’t finish that play I’ve been working on this week.  And that’s okay.

On my way home, I encountered a group of guys on their way to an infinitely more needed break.  My friends and I hung out with a group of young soldiers who were all going home briefly before they headed off to their different assignments.  We talked while we waited for our delayed flights, and they told us that they were the military’s “truck drivers”.  Their group often drives over the IEDs.

And after complaining of my own tiredness for so long, this was a paradigm shift.  Talk about perspective.  I don’t know what will happen to them, and I don’t think I’ll see them again, but I will pray that they enjoy their short rest now and be able to find rest even in the midst of such hard lives.

In conclusion?  Sleep!  Rest!  Take time to step back and renew yourself for whatever you will create in the future.  I’m going to spend some time with God, my family, my friends, and my books.

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P.S.  Help, I’m still listening to Bastille… to use their wording, they’re properly mental.

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the human body

I was walking back and forth in my dorm’s elevator when I noticed the slight, contented ache of a good day of walking in my legs.  In that moment, I thought all of the ropy muscles in my thighs, calves, and feet, imagining them straining and relaxing, bunching themselves up and stretching themselves out with every step or shift of weight.  The fact that I can do something like walking is amazing.  Each muscle works perfectly with the others so easily that I don’t even have to think about what to do with each one and what’s pulling what in which direction.

Our bodies are absolutely fantastic.  I can’t even… just think of the complexity of it for a second.  There are so many different systems in the body, with the brain controlling the whole thing, and everything works together in delicate balance in order for us to even function.  It’s a miracle that we work so much of the time, really.  It’s beautiful, the way that we’re so specifically and perfectly knitted together.  I think this is part of the reason why I’m still struggling with the decision to be premed or not, because I’m so drawn to the magnificent beauty of the human body (more on this later, probably).

I was lying in bed this week, trying (somewhat fruitlessly) to fall asleep, when I slid my hand over my own heart and just felt my heartbeat for a while.  As I focused, I could feel it fluttering there in my chest, keeping me alive, pumping with each beat.  I noticed how one side beat harder than the other, how it was stronger on the left side than the right.  I could feel it sending my blood shooting out into my extremities, pulsing and circulating throughout my entire body and reaching my fingers until I felt the heartbeat in my hand and my chest.

But my first impression struck me the most.  As I lie there with my hand over my heart, I was suddenly reminded of a memory.  When I was younger, we found a tiny gray-and-white kitten that we brought home for a few short weeks before realizing that it was much too young to be with us.  We named it Mischief and cared for it very carefully, holding it, giving it baths, and giving it a stuffed animal to snuggle with at night.  As sad as my brother and I were to see the kitten go, we were glad it was back with its mother.

I remember holding Mischief to my chest, one hand underneath him and the other keeping him close.  As he nestled into the folds of my t-shirt, I could feel his tiny heartbeat in my fingers.  The skin, bone, and fur that separated his heart from my hand seemed paper-thin, and I could feel every quick beat through his delicate ribcage.

As I lay in bed, my own heart felt like that.  I felt so… vulnerable.  I was suddenly aware of my own fragility and of the delicacy of the thin layer of material that guards that organ that preserves my life.  My life is so brief.  I could be killed in a second.

It’s a marvel to be alive.  Every detail is so perfectly crafted… you’re fearfully and wonderfully made.  I was walking home from the library Monday night (more like Tuesday morning), praying as I trekked back to my dorm.  As I looked around, and thought about these same wonders of existing, I had to stop because I realized this:

God is the God of the entire universe.  He created everything in it, and designed it – I stopped for a while to look at trees.  How do you even think up trees? And the form helps it stay alive as well (google photosynthesis… haha). One of the things I really love about creation, too, is the way something can be both functional and beautiful.  Like our bodies.

So, God made the universe.  He designed everything specifically, including us.  As beings created in the image of the eternal God (!), we are the pinnacle of creation.  I paused while typing that, because it seems conceited… but people are more important than animals or nature.  We’re the only animals with souls.  And after God created us on the sixth day, he didn’t just call us good, but very good.

And this all-powerful, all-knowing Creator of everything we can and can’t see, this inconceivably wonderful and mighty God… loves us.

We can talk to Him. Just… just stop for a second.  We can talk to the God of the universe.  It blew my mind when I realized it.  I’m so unworthy of speaking to Him.  I’ve been praying for so long, and I whine and moan about tests and lost belongings and my shallow, petty feelings.  It’s infinitely crazier than going to up to the President and asking him to scratch that itch on your back that you can’t reach, or help you clean out your fridge or listen to you talk about your favorite TV show.

And He still listens, because He loves us so much.  Even when we whine about the stupid things that really don’t matter, He lets us talk.

I think that I need to start taking prayer more seriously.  Sometimes we get so carried away with the whole God-is-love, God-is-my-friend mentality that we forget how awesome He truly is.  Yes, of course those things are true.  But He’s also the ruler of everything, the God of everything that has been and will be, the Eternal Creator who created time itself.  He holds infinite power, and He still cares about us.

That’s a little bit mind-blowing.

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“So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:27

Anatomy of the Human Heart

Muscular System

nothing else matters.

“At present we are on the outside of the world, the wrong side of the door. We discern the freshness and purity of morning, but they do not make us fresh and pure. We cannot mingle with the splendours we see. But all the leaves of the New Testament are rustling with the rumour that it will not always be so. Some day, God willing, we shall get in.  When human souls have beome as perfect in voluntary obedience as the inanimate creation is in its lifeless obedience, then they will put on its glory, or rather that greater glory of which Nature is only the first sketch.” Weight of Glory, C.S. Lewis

Last night, I went to a worship event in another state.  It was sort of a spur of the moment decision, but it was one of the best ones I’ve made in a while.  Clearly, it was a lot of fun, and I got to bond with people, have milkshakes, and be silly afterwards.  But the actual worship was fantastic.

I worry about the same things a lot.  My thoughts cycle through future job woes, how I’m dreadfully undecided, the amount of homework I have, etc.  But, here’s the thing.

It doesn’t matter.

Jobs, your future, work, what you’re going to wear, problems in your social life.  I’m not saying that we shouldn’t do our best in these things (because of course we should).  But in the long run, they don’t matter at all.  When it comes right down to it, this world will pass, and you and I will pass, and we can’t take anything with us when we are translated over except our souls.

Nothing matters but Jesus, and what he’s done, and who he is, and what he’s sacrificed for us.  He loves us astoundingly, amazingly, in such a way that we can’t even comprehend the volume of his love.  He came to us, even though we don’t deserve it, and gave his very life in order to share it with us.

It’s absolutely mind-blowing.

I can’t remember much of the particulars of the worship night.  I don’t remember exactly which songs we sang, or if the band was good, or what the content was exactly of my desperate, fervent, muttered prayers.

But I remember the peace of the God of the universe filling me up until I thought I would overflow or burst or laugh or cry, and I remember God grabbing my heart and refusing to let go.  I remember knowing that he was there, with us, ready to take us in and change us entirely and turn our lives upside down in order to put them back together in a better way that centers completely on Him.

He’s still here with me, now.  And I know that he’s not going to leave.

It doesn’t matter what I end up doing, as long as I’m doing it for Him.  I pray that he’d take away my pride and fallen-ness and fill me up so much with the Holy Spirit that his love would flow out of me and reach those that need him desperately.

I hope I won’t lose sight of what’s important.  And I know I will, at least a little bit.  I still live in this world, and that will distract me.  I have to be refreshed every day and refocus on what truly matters.  But one day, we’ll get there.  One day we will truly understand the weight of God’s glory.

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Read this: “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” 1 Corinthians 13:12

Romans 8 (http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Romans+8&version=NIV )

Weight of Glory, C.S. Lewis: http://www.verber.com/mark/xian/weight-of-glory.pdf  .  I really struggled with finding a quote to start this post off with because every word of this is absolutely amazing.  READ IT!!!

those times when God kind of slaps you upside the head with His truth…

“I know those moods when you sit there utterly alone, pining, eaten up with unhappiness, in a pure state of grief. You don’t move towards me but desperately imagine that everything you have ever done has been utterly lost and forgotten. This near-despair and self-pity are actually a form of pride. What you think was a state of absolute security from which you’ve fallen was really trusting too much in your own strength and ability. . . . what really ails you is that things simply haven’t happened as you expected and wanted. In fact I don’t want you to rely on your own strength and abilities and plans, but to distrust them and to distrust yourself, and to trust me and no one and nothing else. As long as you rely entirely on yourself, you are bound to come to grief. You still have a most important lesson to learn: your own strength will no more help you to stand upright than propping yourself on a broken reed. You must not despair of me. You may hope and trust in me absolutely. My mercy is infinite.”  ~ John of Landsburg, 16th Century

So this weekend was rough.

That’s a bit of an understatement, I’ll allow.  But I had a slight breakdown on Friday with everything: not doing well in school, the stress, missing everyone dearly, and, on top of it all, my parents calling to tell me that a family friend had died suddenly.

And that very morning, that was what God showed me.  That quote up there was one of the first things I saw as the stress was building, and it was exactly, exactly what I needed to hear.  I cannot keep relying on my own strength, because it will get me nowhere.  I am weak and fallen, with no way to stand on my own.  If I don’t trust God with everything I have, then what can I possibly hope to make of my own life?

And if I know this, why is it so hard?  Why do I continue to try and find my worth in my own accomplishments and intelligence instead of in my identity as His precious child?  Why did the feelings of inferiority continue to build inside me as I looked to everything but the one who saves me?

And the next day, He did it again.  I was deciding whether or not I should go to church, and when I did, the sermon was about… Sabbath.  And resting in God, without striving.  About how the day of rest that we practice now is a foreshadowing of that day when we will have eternal rest in Him.

Never has God spoken to me so obviously.  And He wasn’t even finished:

Sunday, I let it happen again.  I let the negative thoughts, the stress, and the feelings of worthlessness creep up on me, bubble inside, and spill over.  I shifted my focus back onto the shaky, insecure platform of my own construction and forgot.

Foolish child.  Why do I have such a short term memory?  I am so quick to relapse, and so quick to forget.  And so when I asked Him for help again, he answered clearly.

My worth is found in Him and Him alone.

I am His precious child, and that’s all I ever need to be.

I am lovely in His eyes, and He is always,

always,

always here for me.

I’m amazed.  And I need to keep reminding myself who and whose I am in order to keep my focus centered on Him and not myself.

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Read this: Mark 2:23-28, 3:1-12  (http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Mark%202:23-28,%203:1-12&version=NIV)

Hear this: More than Useless, Relient K  (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FLkMA3wn70Q)