Saturday, August 25, 2012

An Invitation

So I am learning that I really enjoy being 24. While it is somewhat disturbing to move further and further into adulthood and watch the years of my youth slowly fall through my fingers like sand, I am, in very tangible ways, rediscovering myself. For the first time in a long time, I am folding inside out and becoming comfortable in admitting my own weakness, hesitations and doubts.

And in this process, I am seeing and tasting and discovering more beauty than I ever knew existed.

So here I stand at the beach of self-discovery. I visit this place often in my internal explorations, as it quickly becomes my necessary escape. It is here that I linger in reflection and collect memories like shells in the sand. It is here that I speak kindly to myself in a calm and motherly tone.

Today I play in the sand like always as I painfully allow each tiny speck to drift from my hands back to the ground until suddenly it seems, my childhood and college years become a closed chapter. The story must go on.

But with the sand forever set free, I sense something new in my hands, something invisible but heavy. I experience the weight of it in my palms all the way down to my feet. I feel it dance within each strand of my hair. I feel it nudge at my limbs and tickle my eyelashes... 


I welcome the wind in all of her playfulness. Boldly, brilliantly, she sings a majestic sound, like music I have never noticed on this beach of golden sand. With time, the wind becomes stronger in her movement, more intricate in her choreography, until she completely and deliberately turns me around. At once, my eyes are in shock at what they see.

A body of blue perfection.

The ocean in its raw and fiery blue, is the most calming yet inviting piece of creation I have ever seen. And like a magnetic pull, it draws me in and never wants to let me go.

In this great big ocean of blue, moments combine into days and days into weeks and weeks into years and over time, I discover, this is what it means to grow up... 

To weave in to the waves of the majestic. 

Yes, the years of playing in the sand are most beautiful, I must assure you. But may I invite you to swim in the sea? May I request your arrival at this ocean of glory? Come discover yourself in the waves of desire and swim toward her horizon. And as you swim, I dare you,

Invite your Creator to pull back layers of your heart. 

Layer after layer… in all of your past, in all of your confusion, in all of your doubt, He peels. In all of your very fragile and human moments, the moments you thought impossible to forgive, He peels. So for once, let each year of your life serve as just one more layer being peeled back as you are given a deeper awareness of yourself with all of your kinks and quirks, cravings and aspirations.

The ocean is behind you. Let the wind carry you home.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Tears of Gold.

So I got my first taste of homesickness yesterday. It stung a little and still stings now if I’m telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Wow…just had a sudden flashback to the magical slumber party game every girl dreams of known as… wait for it… the legendary, the timeless…

Truth or Dare.

I remember that feeling like it was yesterday. We would all be in our pajamas by this time of the night. And we had (of course) already completed the other tasks on our To Do List of Sixth-Grade Fun including a 3hour-long series of MASH, make-overs, dance performances, scary movies, raiding the fridge… and NOW. It was everyone’s favorite.

Pillow in lap. Here we go.

And before you could say Backstreet’s Back, everyone was sitting in a perfectly flawless circle, Indian style and all, silently comparing PJ’s. And I swear you could actually hear hearts beating heavily around the room like rocks gloriously tumbling down the Carolina mountainside. And the longer the silence lasted between players, the louder these hearts of rock would become until suddenly, the moment when you equally love and hate your name…

Mary Margaret. 
Truth or Dare!?

At once, as if all N’sync (ha, see what I did there?), a chorus of giggles and glares would leap across the circle as each girl internally analyzed you to death, looking you up and down trying to figure out what your puberty-stricken self is made of. In retrospect, it is a bit creepy how each individual tween's eyes would gleam like diamonds as she would silently predict your answer better than a weatherman predicts the day's mood.

And as fun as it was to be the brave soul that took on the Dare every round and be forced to rush to the garage and shove a bowl of Dog food down your throat against your own Limited Too will, you do know that, most times that was the easier route. I mean, seriously, what middle school girl really wants to open all doors to any question which she is required by Slumber Party Law to uphold to in all honesty? Um… sorry, but No Thanks.

Ok so we’re on the same page? Truth is the new Dare. Just go with me for a minute…

So back to yesterday…you know those moments when you crave nothing more than familiarity? This was one of those days. Shoot, you could have thrown me in a ditch in Nashville or Tuscaloosa (take your pick) and I would have been one happy little camper. Either place would have sufficed. Just give me a voice I recognize, a face that knows my past so I don’t have to explain myself anymore. Just give me that Alabama ground, a tree at Centennial. Anything.

It’s quite hilarious, though, how upset I get at myself when those feelings come. I find myself saying things like, Just tough it up Mary Margaret. Come on. You’re a big girl now. And then low and behold, the real battle exists between a clean cheek and a wet one. And let me tell you, if those tears come, all hell breaks loose.

I get so mad at myself.

Each tear becomes one more avalanche reminding me I failed. I failed at being grown-up. I failed at putting on the happy face that people so easily associate with me… or at least that’s my desire. Tears mean soft, weak, pitiful. And this is not the time. At least save them until you are by yourself, I tell myself. Save it for a decent writing session, a lonely night before bed.

I was in Rite Aid when it happened. The battle had begun. Two of my new coworkers/friends scurried around the store to cross off their lifelong list of items… or so it seemed because it had literally been years since I purchased my one necessary item for the day: a watch. I was putting it off as long as possible. I hate wearing those heavy, ugly things on my wrist. And more than that, most days I hate knowing what time it is. It makes me feel like I live in a box… but I guess that’s part of being grown-up too.

So I was sitting in a cheap, raggedy looking chair in the front of the store that I’m pretty sure was for sale since it was in the middle of Nowhere-ville, Rite Aid. Yes, I was feeling a bit on the lazy side but I was certainly ok with that. I know I probably looked a bit silly and out of place sitting there but I somehow felt entitled to such temporary and unusual comfort, I guess because, “I’m not from around these parts.”

I’m using that line as long as possible.

And then it hit me: I’m not having fun. I feel stuck in this town, in this store, with no car and no desire to be the slightest bit social. And I just bought a watch. Really?! A watch.

Ok so mission accomplished. I didn’t cry. My new friends who are coming to know me for my quirky humor and Alabama twang never even knew I was hurting inside. But should that have been my goal?

It’s such a natural instinct for me to not let myself “go there” too many times than not. As soon as I get the shaky voice and the stuffy nose, I just want to crawl into a hole and die. Ok that’s a little dramatic but I think it’s safe to say I quickly turn into somewhat of a drill sergeant inside demanding this way, then that. This feeling, not that.

And you know one thing I am beginning to realize? While I spend all my time and efforts to withhold being vulnerable with people (A.K.A. when my heart turns plastic like a McDonald’s hamburger), I hurt those I am closest to because I don’t let them in. I don’t let them in to that sacred space where God actually dreams of me living. Because it is there that He gets to be God and we get to be human. He gets to be Father and we get to be child. He gets to be Creator and we get to be creation.

Simpler version? We become what we were made for: Weak.

I know, it’s a bit unsettling. I still struggle with the concept myself but God is opening my eyes to a new day, a new reality, where I actually can begin to trust in His goodness. He is inviting me to a new place on the map, an island of liberty perhaps, where He can actually hold my frail and fragile heart and let me be me.

Messy messy me. Tears and all. 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Getting to know You.

So I have officially been in the Redwoods for an entire week. I am meeting some beautiful people and learning more and more about myself. Sometimes it takes some distance from familiarity to learn such things. And what’s really exciting is the fact that God is giving me some much-needed rest that I was praying for (a lot) toward the end of the summer.

I spent my summer working at a Christian multi-cultural camp in Kentucky called Barefoot Republic and let me just tell you, it was such a sweet blessing for me. I am still processing all that God did there and all that He is continuing to do in my heart because of my time at camp.

Some of the most memorable experiences come from my time as counselor, once for high school aged girls and once for middle school. It’s crazy how much I saw Jesus in those girls. Like you think you know Jesus after growing up in the church and reading so many stories about Him in Scripture but what is so beautiful and alarming to me is this:

We are always getting to know Jesus.

It never stops. We meet someone, we hear a story, and BOOM. Jesus becomes real in that moment and you pause and you ask yourself,

Wait.. This can’t be Jesus. In this conversation? Really?!

Yes. Really.

His presence is always with us and just when we think we fully know Him, He surprises us with another layer to His goodness, another shade of His color scheme.

I think that’s what I love most about meeting new people. I get to meet Jesus again and again and again. Because this is real: Jesus loves His people. He loves smiling on His creation and He loves when we live out what we are made for: 

Relationship with each other. 

And there we meet Jesus. 
Have you met Jesus today?

Sunday, August 5, 2012

A Day's Climb.

So here I am after too long of an absence. Not just from this blog but from my own creative outlet, my sacred space. The kind of space created when I actually pause and listen to myself. I listen to my desires, my fears, my dreams, my ideas (the ones that make sense and the ones that I hope to make sense out of some day).

And in this space I become a student again…
A student of myself.

And suddenly, the oh-so-missed college days return. Flashbacks to my ocean blue quirky little Wal-Mart bike (yes, it was stolen and yes, I am crying… almost) that could take me a mile a minute in any direction of campus flood my memory. And of course my favorite New College seminars like Songcraft and Creativity I and II with the infamous and dream shaping Dr. Dill. And who can forget those beautiful spring afternoons on the Quad in between classes with nothing to do but lie in a blanket of Alabama’s greenest grass and melt into the heat of the day, letting the mind run loose into the trees.

Oh, the joys of calling oneself a college student.

So not entirely different, here I sit at the classroom of my own thoughts, a student yet again. Here in this sacred space I collect, I analyze, I learn and relearn how to be human. It’s funny how we tend to forget such a thing. The art of being human, I am learning, is to listen well. To listen with my eyes, my ears, my feet, my hands. And here I feel more alive than ever.

And once again, I listen to myself as I allow my thoughts to climb high into the trees as they did on the Quad years ago. With time and years, I am learning how to watch my thoughts, how to step back cautiously yet attentively and gaze at their growing curiosity in the world around them, at their beautiful fascination with the trees. Like a child at the playground for the very first time, they climb in anticipation and wonder, alive and full.

Too easily in a culture like ours, we stand motionless underneath the trees, letting our eyes casually drift and wander from the climber we are responsible for, the climber we are belaying until suddenly, tragically, the climber falls as we have released all of the necessary tension in the rope. And just like the climber loses height, our thoughts lose what they are made for as we let them fall into ground-level normalcy. And if we’re not careful, our once creative and imagination thirsty thoughts forget how to climb trees.

I hope and pray that I can better learn to care for myself in this new season. So I step back, I look up and watch my thoughts climb. Branch by branch, they grow into the skies of my Creator.

And there He waits, watching my thoughts from above as I watch below. And He smiles down at His messy, broken child underneath the trees.