Monday, May 5, 2014

A flightless bird, an American summer and a mixed tape

“After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.” -Aldous Huxley

Summer is a time of refreshing, recharging, rearranging and rediscovering.  Summer was always the 3-month gap between each school year, where so much seemed to change: not only the colour of our skin or the length of our hair, but our favorite song, new friends and memories from nights staying up way too late and laughing way too much that you've worked off all of the junk food consumed during the three-hour conversation around the campfire.

Now that I'm nearly done with undergrad, the magical concept of summer doesn't seem to fade with time like I thought it would.  Maybe it's the extended daylight hours, the green forests begging for company or the seemingly endless back roads that lead to nowhere, anywhere and everywhere.  But something about the summer pushes away all of the anxiety, stress and fear felt during the other three seasons; you forget just how difficult the previous 9 months were and relax in the present, not wanting to waste one day of sunshine.

But something about the summer is also bittersweet because it usually means the end of another journey: the end of another school year, a final track season, a semester abroad, an internship, a lease with your roommates, or what society defines as 'childhood.' The changes are inevitable and unavoidable, but the softness of a cool summer breeze, the cooing of morning birds, the sweet taste of farm-fresh strawberries and the smell of fire lingering on your favourite flannel ease the transition; I'd like to think it's another way God has given us to find peace and comfort in difficult times.

With each summer, music becomes my best friend when real friends are scattered across the globe in Africa, Colorado, Spain, Idaho, Scotland, North Carolina, England, Pine Springs, Iraq, Northern Ireland, France, and Illinois.  My relationship with music has helped me bridge the distance between oceans, lakes, interstates and roundabouts. I find that music can create emotions that words on paper or by mouth can't always suffice on their own.  So, when another summer rolls around, I've realised mixed CDs keep the summer spirit alive and allow for communication with faraway friends that goes beyond the screen of a Skype date.

The mysteries of summer hide among the pines and beneath suntanned skin; the revival of creation refreshes our minds, spirits and bodies; music finds a way to bring together the emotions, the senses and the comforts to keep us connected even if it's just by taking a drive with the volume cranked or taking a run by the river with iPod in hand.

Summer '14: Rooted "The joy of nothing is a sweeter something and I will hold it in my heart"

1. Heart and Soul - Huey Lewis & The News
2. American Girl - Tom Petty
3. Down On The Corner - Creedence Clearwater Revival
4. Amsterdam - Peter, Bjorn & John
5. Magic - Coldplay
6. Islands - The xx
7. Time Keeper - Grace Potter & The Nocturnals
8. Misunderstood - The Tedeschi Trucks Band
9. Barton Hallow - The Civil Wars
10. Soul Singing - The Black Crowes
11. Another Kind of Green - John Mayer Trio
12. Help Me Lose My Mind - Disclosure, London Grammar
13. Open - Rhye
14. My Blood - Ellie Goulding
15. Dreams - Fleetwood Mac
16. Sing To The Mountain - Elephant Revival
17. Rye Whiskey - Punch Brothers
18. When You Come Back Down - Nickel Creek
19. Lonesome Road - We Banjo 3
20. Fire and Rain - James Taylor
21. Gypsy - Suzanne Vega
22. Joy of Nothing - Foy Vance
23. Me & God - Trent Dabbs
24. No Woman, No Cry - Bob Marley & The Wailers
25. I'll Be Seeing You - Billie Holiday

“Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination

and life to everything.” - Plato


Saturday, May 3, 2014

To be expectant is to be vulnerable

"He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end." Ecc. 3:11

If you ever think doing the same thing twice means it will be a repeated experience, think again.  The last time you walked into town to buy groceries, did you see the same people? Did you buy exactly the same food? Or did you veer from your usual broccoli and cereal shopping list? Was the weather the same? Were you in the same mood that day? Chances are, nothing was exactly same even though the task was; albeit there were similarities paralleling each other between the two trips, you had a different experience.

A lot of the time people get caught up in the belief that doing something twice will mean you receive the same experience.  When I decided to study abroad again at the same University, I couldn't even count how many times people asked if I was expecting to do the same things I had last time.  It took a while for people to understand that the reason I was going back wasn't so I could relive an amazing semester I had in autumn 2012, but yet I was hoping for a completely different experience; my bucket list was full of the things I DIDN'T do on my first trip, and ideas of new ways I could expand, grow and explore a place I'd already been.  If you believe that doing the same thing means it will have the same outcome or results, you are automatically signing up for inevitable disappointment and failure; no matter how hard you may want to re-create or relive an experience, it isn't possible.  And why would you want to live in past experiences when you have the opportunity to establish new ones?

Another problem with "repeating" experiences is remembering negative connotations or outcomes associated with the last journey or event.  When we dwell on those bad experiences, they seep into our present lives, causing us to think that trying something again that we previously failed in will have the same end result; we let those fears hold us back from picking up the broken pieces and finding a new way to make it work.  For instance, the first time I tried out for majorettes, I didn't make the squad.  I was completely devastated, as most 15 year-old girls usually feel after rejection, but the next year I was able to embrace my fears and give it another chance, fully aware that I might fail again but knowing there was an equal chance of succeeding.  Terrified and more nervous than my first try-out, I was the best version of myself in the gymnasium even though it wasn't a perfect routine; I showed the judges that I wasn't willing to give-up on something I loved, even though I had faced failure in the past.

The joy about doing something twice is being given the opportunity to recognize your growth. After coming back to Stirling, I can say that this experience has been 100% different from my last trip.  This semester I've noticed how much I've changed since my first time here, which may have been something I wouldn't have picked-up on if I didn't come back for a new experience, remembering my first experience.  To think that I am the same person I was on my first semester abroad would be insane; I look at the girl and ask "what the heck was she thinking?!?" Growing up means growing into the person you were made to be, day by day, month by month, year by year.  Whether it was a past failure or a past success, our personal development isn't limited to a negative or positive journey.  Regardless of the situation, time equals change, and it scientifically cannot be denied.  When you are about to embark on a trip or involve yourself in a situation you've faced in the past, it is best to enter the situation with a blank slate.  But if you want to set goals for yourself, don't base them off your past; instead, create them as a way to build-up your future self.

This summer I will be returning to Camp Ligonier, a past experience that has shaped me into the woman I am today.  As much as I may wish I was working with the same staff or would have all of the same campers or would re-live all of the funny memories from 2013, I'm so excited and expectant to see how else I can grow as a leader, a friend, a role model, a woman and a follower of Jesus.  I have no idea what this summer has in store for me, but that is the beauty of having a blank slate.  I can use the wisdom from my first summer as a counselor to help me be a leader toward new staff members and also further establish a comfortability and vulnerability in sharing my faith and life experiences with others.

Be open; be vulnerable; be expectant; be willing; be trusting; be motivated by faith.

"But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong." 2 Cor. 12: 9-10