It’s that time of year again. The end of the semester. Finals week. So stressful. So tantalizingly close to Christmas and winter break. Yet at the same time feeling so far away.
It’s the time of year when everyone I talk to seems to be burnt-out, tired, frustrated, just making it. The time of year when everyone could use a love letter.
I stumbled across this gem last year, and I read it now and then when I need a pick-me-up. It’s incredibly sweet and deserves to be shared. So put down the textbook and read this.
I’ve been there.
Books piled up in a stack beside you. Nodding off to the glow of the computer screen. Neon strips of highlighter scraped across your forehead, leftover not from a raging highlighter party the night before but rather the all-nighter spent spooning Shakespeare term papers and mind-rattling interpretations of Samuel Beckett’s best works.
Some of you are halfway through. Knees sunk deep in the muds of history power points and audio projects. Stammering in the mirror before you give that final speech in class tomorrow. Still muddling through the differences between el & usted. Nosotros & Vosotros.
Some of you are stocking up on caffeine fixes and 5-Hour Energy drinks before the storm hits. A storm of finals worth 60% of your grade. 12-pagers that will have you crawling into the light of the morning, turning your study guide into a white flag to wave and surrender.
You’ll make it.
I know it. I can promise that there are lights & lanterns & the promise of oh, holier nights at the end of your tunnel. Perhaps it won’t be the grace of a love letter but the grace you’ll gain from the sound of the last book shutting. The sound of the last pages shuffling out from the printer and into your professor’s mailbox.
Remember to breathe. To eat. To sleep, if you can. Curl up on the couch in the campus center if that’s what it takes. Blast Carol of the Bells while you sip a pumpkin spice latter that you so deserve. And, on the nights where 1am comes quicker than shoppers to Best Buy on Black Friday, be the one to text your friends, “Diner. 2am. I’ll drive.”
I still keep that memory.
Unearth it as I do the ugly sweaters that get pulled down from the attic this time of year and pulling off the cobwebs of a time that I didn’t know I’d ever miss. A stack of pancakes. An open laptop. Hot chocolate with whipped cream dribbling from the side. All of us laughing, not knowing at the time that yes, yes, we were going to miss it one day soon.
It’s hard to believe that right now as you struggle to swallow every prefix in the dictionary or every literary term you’ll need to dissect that Emily D. poem tomorrow. But the closeness of friends in one place, the justified seeing of the sun coming up before you close a book and allow your bottom and top lids to mingle with one another again after a solid two weeks of Open & Awake, the 24/7 sweatpants apparel for at least two weeks… you’ll miss it when it is gone.
So pick your chin up from the computer. Stand up and stretch. Take a break to call your friend and see how studying is going. If there is someone beside you, smile… propose a coffee break… treat them.
String up holiday lights in your dorm’s lounge and claim that a study executed at 800 universities across the country proved that the ambiance of the teeny tiny bulbs increased final grades by a whopping 73% percent.
Put out a blanket in the middle of your campus center. Fake candles (cause we all know the real ones are not allowed). Make unneccessary references to Elf quotes throughout the night (Santa?! I know him!). Let Beethoven trickle through the iHome. Take a Target break. Buy reindeer ears for no good reason. Drive home the long way and let the lights catch you and hold you for a pocket of peace. Stop the car. Park it. And just sit quiet for a minute– no texts to keep you, no Instagram to push you off from the moment at hand. Forget for a moment that your vocabulary is plumped with Finals & Responsibility & Deadlines & Due Dates. Just laugh & sing & dare to miss the moments that will be gone tomorrow.
Remember: It is a book. It is a test. It is a paper. That’s it. That’s all.
You’ll make it. Myself, this love letter, and anyone who has ever been there before…we are pulling for you.
Link to original: http://www.moreloveletters.com/2011/12/07/put-down-the-textbook-and-read-this-a-love-letter-for-the-college-students/
As we near the last weeks of the semester, almost all of us are nearing the brink of stressful insanity (and some have leaped clear off the edge). The studying, the essay writing, the reading all quickly build up into a drastic lack of sleep, food, and, most importantly, fun.
It’s all too easy during these busy, stressful times to isolate ourselves from each other and from God. We tend to think we’re alone, that we’re the only ones drowning, and that we are the only ones who can fix it.
On Wednesday night, however, I was reminded that I’m not alone. We have a whole community there looking out for each other and all of us are going through craziness right now.
For our LCM Christmas party, we all hit pause and took time to bake cookies, listen to Christmas music, and hang out. The night started with using coffee pots and glasses as makeshift rolling pins and ended with some of us tap dancing in a circle in the church kitchen. Needless to say, laughter abounded.
It was a wonderful feeling – to just turn it all over to God and rejoice in life. I was reminded that everything becomes a lot easier when we stop trying to hold onto it so tightly. In these next two weeks, the stress will undoubtedly continue, but hopefully we will seek solace in community and remember to laugh through it all.
On November 7th (the day after the election), I was riding the campus connector to St. Paul, still half asleep, checking Facebook on my phone. As I was glancing at random photos and reading my friends’ opinions on the results of the election, I came across a fellow LCM leader, Bryna’s, Facebook status. It read, “Finishing work in a deserted conference center at 2 a.m. man do I love reporting. :)” My first subconscious thought: oh my gosh that sounds absolutely awful. I kept scrolling through, but found myself scrolling back up to Bryna’s status, re-reading it, noticing the smiley face, and thinking, “That’s actually really awesome that she’s so passionate about what she does. It’s a good thing she loves reporting, otherwise I wouldn’t know what the heck was going on.”
This is going to sound really really cheesy, but that’s okay with me. After re-reading Bryna’s status, I woke up immediately and got really excited about life, realizing that everyone that I would interact with that day has a passion and purpose—discovered or not, it’s there. Then, and here’s where it gets cheesy/BEAUTIFUL, I began to visualize the world as a giant puzzle, and God playing the role of the puzzle-maker. God’s just hanging out at his puzzle table, maybe listening to some Christmas music and eating some Oreos, putting together this puzzle of the world. We, as humans, are the pieces of the puzzle. So now I’m visualizing myself and everyone around me as puzzle pieces… just running around searching for the place to ‘fit in’ perfectly. I really don’t like the idea of the phrase ‘fitting in’ because, for me, it comes with connotations of conforming to society. Fitting in, in this situation, is more along the lines of discovering your passion and feeling confident and motivated with where you’re at in life at a particular moment.
So, amidst all of this discerning, searching, and discovering our passions, there is often a feeling of loss and helplessness. “Everyone around me seems to have their futures all figured out, and I still have no idea what I’m supposed to be doing with my life.” While I can pretty much guarantee that no one feels 100% confident in what the future holds for them, in this situation, I’m picturing God getting distracted with all of the fun he’s having doing this huge puzzle, that he doesn’t notice the lost pieces that he dropped on the floor. Or maybe he’s an outside-of-the-puzzle-first kind of guy and your place is in the middle of the puzzle… your feeling of being lost and unsure is completely intentional on God’s part here.
In any case, after thinking about and building this idea for a few weeks, I’m comforted over and over again by the idea that God has a plan and a purpose for everyone. Everyone has a place in the great puzzle of the world. And even when we think we’ve found our place in the puzzle–or our passion in life, there’s always the possibility of God starting a new puzzle… rotating, changing, and moving the pieces around to challenge us and show us new possibilities.
So, may this blogpost provide some sort of comfort and relief for you as we continue our journey into not only finals week, but also the season of Advent—a season of waiting and preparation for big things to come 🙂
I saw this quote, attributed to Martin Luther, on a bookmark when I was in graduate school. Whether or not Martin Luther said it, I think it’s true. Advent is approaching, and last night we talked about dreaming and hoping and holding your head up to keep watch for God’s New Day even, or especially, amidst the suffering that so many of us witness or experience.
I asked the students to write down their wildest and craziest hopes for themselves and/or for the world – forgetting any kind of practicalities, or any kind of responsibility they might feel towards actualizing this hope. Advent, after all, is a time when we wait actively, dreaming, and trusting that God just might be up to something that is beyond our capacity to make happen.
These were some of their hopes, for themselves, their families and the world they will inherit (there were also a number of drawings that I won’t try to explain):
- that my parents will find peace between each other, and my brother realize how great he will be when he succeeds and that the fighting in darfur ends.
- environmental problems solved! eco tech everywhere! responsible people, open minded people, understanding people. global action to help those in need around the world. willingness, patience to pursue peace – no exceptions. no war. for myself: happiness.
- that each and every individual may know love and peace and that they are loved just as they are. may each of us know joy and be able to express their inner passions fully and deeply. may the weary and lost and lonely find rest. may the still small voice of the Lord resonate in each and every heart as a blessing unto others – friend and stranger.
- that all children of god will know only love – instead of hunger, hopelessness or pain; and that i may be able to use the gifts that God gave me to help meet the world’s need.
- peace. no more wars. people will solve problems by talking and listening. terrorism will be no more. the money going to modern warfare will go to the poor, the sick, and the needy.
- to tread lightly on this earth, to not leave a scar on the world, but to better our home through kindness to one another and the planet. to find a moment of happiness within each day, a simple joy, a reason to smile. to be less concerned with the idea of self and more concerned with the ideas of another. for us to all find inner peace. to share our triumphs, hopes and joys.
- my dream for this world is for every single child to have a positive role model in their life…and for every child to have equal access to education.
- that everyone feels love.
- peace, cooperation and understanding between people of different creeds, religions and nationalities
- be content. live in Jesus’ image.
- when all who hunger are fed
- respect for everyone and everything and through respect, we will have peace.
- to feel adequate. to feel like i can let down my barriers and be loved. to know that i won’t always succeed but to be okay with mediocre.
- a world of love and compassion; where life is respected, adored, and cared for; where no one struggles alone. a live of purpose and above all love. love of the people and by the people in my life, and love for what i am doing.
- inner peace for everyone.
- i dream that one day everyone in the world will see others, appreciate others, and learn from others. i dream that one day people will open their eyes to the world around them and will learn that God’s love is constantly spreading.
In the spirit of Thanksgiving, God has given me a lot to be thankful for.
This past week my mom spent two nights in the hospital. She had a blood clot causing a lot of pain in her leg. After going to the emergency room she had it confirmed that it was a clot in her leg. The doctor also questioned her on her shortness of breath, which she attributed to being nervous about being the hospital. However, they did an MRI on her chest to find a few smaller blood clots in her lungs. After, she was given blood thinners and was able to be home in two days. Honestly, I am still overwhelmed, but incredibly thankful that they found the clots in her lungs.
She is a lot better now, I am keep thanking God that they found the clots in her lungs, things could have been much worse.
I am incredibly blessed to be able to be close enough to home that I had the opportunity to spend the day with her in the hospital with my family.
The response of my friends and family to what happen also reminded me of how blessed I am for the people God placed in my life. The concern from close friends meant the world to me. I really believe that God puts bad or scary things in our life so we will realize how much else we have been given.
These situations also put into perspective what is most important in live and what can be left as it is. Last week was incredible stressful but also reminded me of what I value and where I need to be grounded. I have been caught up in so many other things that I feel like I just got distracted, and God can use anything to bring us back to where we belong. Sadly, it took a visit to a hospital for me to finally feel like I needed to be re-grounded.
But I am thankful that God takes the time to let us back.
I am a planner. I love having a schedule planned out in advance, and knowing exactly what is going on. Last year I had an internship lined up by mid November for the summer, and loved knowing that I had a plan for the summer. Now here I am, a year later, ready to be done with classes and frequently thinking ahead to next summer and the excitement and uncertainty it is bringing. If only I knew where I would be working, I could start figuring out where I’ll be living once my lease is up, and I could begin planning my life, right? It’s so much easier to think about being done with classes and starting “real life” when there’s a stressful week with many tests and homeworks. There’s just plenty to worry about, and I really start to get stressed out. It’s times like this that I think about this passage:
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? … Therefore do not worry, saying, “What will we eat?” or “What will we drink?” or “What will we wear?” For … indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
“So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”
It’s hard to know exactly how to apply it to my life, but I tried to teach it to my 6th and 7th grade pre-confirmation class this weekend. I don’t know if they got as much out of it as I did, but I was reminded to stay focused on today. If I’m constantly planning my next step, I’m never going to take the time to enjoy the fantastic opportunities and experiences I have right in front of me now. I like to think that once I’m done with college, I will spend more time to enjoy the little things in life, but I’m realizing more and more (especially after a busy summer internship) that it’s something that I have to work harder to achieve, and it’s definitely a goal for the rest of the year: to enjoy the random conversations I have with my roommates, to go out to coffee with an old friend, and to not be constantly thinking about what there is to get done next.
Last Thursday, I attended a lecture given by Mary S Poplin (not Poppins, sad, I know) about finding purpose. First off, what an interesting lady! Mary worked with Mother Teresa in Calcutta, did research on inter-city schools, and taught as a professor while finding God and her purpose along the way. Suffice it to say, she has had quite the journey and had some solid advice on finding one’s purpose.
I think it was Pastor Kate who once told me that purpose lies at the intersection of what you’re good at and where you’re needed. (Although she probably said it much more elegantly.) Mary had a very similar view. She told us to examine the gifts God has given us and to examine our passions. What stood out to me, though, was her advice on how to find our passion. She told us to ask what grieves us the most. For example, Mary was grieved by public education systems that left impoverished kids behind. This drove her to work in education.
How cool is that? Instead of being overwhelmed by what grieves us, we can turn it around to find our passions. Those feelings of hopelessness can be a sign to find where we are needed and what we are passionate about. So now, what grieves you most?
-Meghan with an H
having grown weary of the commentary on why the church is dying, and what it’s doing wrong, i revisited the question of “who” is the church in a sermon preached at grace university lutheran church on october 21. please read the text for the day from Mark to ground this reflection, and be generous with the reality that a sermon always preaches different than it reads.
For any of you who are on Facebook, you know what happens when something controversial, and public – say like a presidential debate – takes place. Your feed blows up with comments, quotes, people posting links to pictures or pundits that help us laugh, process, and in many cases feel better about our own side.
Now imagine my feed after a recently released study by the Pew Forum on Religious Life. It’s blowing up!
Here’s what it said: The number of Americans who do not identify with any religion continues to grow at a rapid pace. One-fifth of the U.S. public – and a third of adults under 30 – are religiously unaffiliated today, the highest percentages ever in Pew Research Center polling.
In the last five years alone, the unaffiliated have increased from just over 15% to just under 20% of all U.S. adults. Their ranks now include more than 13 million self-described atheists and agnostics (nearly 6% of the U.S. public), as well as nearly 33 million people who say they have no particular religious affiliation (14%).
And so my facebook feed, for the last two weeks, has been blowing up with commentary, mostly from “experts,” who work with young adults or who have successful young adult ministries, telling the church what it is doing wrong. And for some reason, it’s driving me batty. I’ve reached my saturation point, I fear, with all the talk of how the church is dying. It feels a little bit like the Children’s story about Chicken Little, who gets hit on the head with an acorn and pronounces to every animal he meets, “the sky is falling, the sky is falling.”
When this band of animals finally reaches the king, the king picks the acorn out of chicken little’s tuft of hair, and says, “You see, Chicken Little, it was only an acorn and not a piece of the sky. The sky could never fall. Only rain falls from the sky.”
The ones fretting about and foaming about and furiously fixing the state of the church might learn a little bit from this whole exchange. I don’t think the sky is falling. Our God is not a God who would set about killing something that has been so instrumental in doing God’s work in this world. The church is God’s hands and feet and beating heart – the church is god’s body in this world – we are what God has – so let’s start acting like it.
Our god is a God of new things. This is the God that told the Israelites, when they wanted to make him a temple, that “I don’t need a place. I understand that’s what you’re used to, but I am with you everywhere.” This is a god that is found in his people. And when Christ came, he expanded that definition even more, saying that God’s people aren’t limited to a race or to a tribe, but instead that God’s promises exist for all people, and in that promise all are made one. And the early church called this new gathering of God’s people the church.
Every 500 years or so, the church goes through a tremendous upheaval. Cultures collide, and it really might feel like the sky is falling, like the church is in danger of extinction – but it’s not. I have a friend who, in response to this cacophony of commentary, wrote that the church isn’t dying, it’s pregnant. We’re about to give birth to something new, with all of the discomfort and anxiety and expectation and fear and hope that accompanies pregnancy. And I think that’s so exciting…
Because what this newness means is a whole lot of letting go. It means for sure that we have to let go of re-creating the church of the 1950’s, or the 1960’s, when buildings were popping up everywhere and the suburbs were growing and highways were connecting our country and our churches were exploding with people. We have to let go of church as the place where you go because you’re supposed to, and because that’s what people expect of you. We have to let go of church as the place that grants you power in a political, or social, or cultural way. That version of the church, for all of its good, bad and ugly, is passing away.
And together, with God, we are giving birth to something new. I think our scripture today might have something to say to that.
Whoever wants to be great must become a servant. Whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave. That is what the Son of Man has done: He came to serve, not to be served—and then to give away his life in exchange for many who are held hostage.”
The images of Christian life that we receive from scripture, the instructions Jesus gives to his disciples, over and over and over again – especially in Mark – is that we are called to the margins of our culture, where people are isolated, lost, alone. We are called to the mourning, the sick, the poor. We are called into service and sacrifice. And when we move into Acts, we find that the church isn’t located in buildings made for thousands of people. The church is comprised of small gatherings, meeting in homes, to be in community with one another, breaking bread, reading scripture, praising God, collecting offerings for the orphan and widow, and then going out to be in relationship with, to serve, the orphan and widow.
This is the church, and this is our call. This is our opportunity to be god’s hands and feet and beating heart. Now I’m not arguing for some throwback to the first century – I honestly think that’s a little naïve. Instead I think we’re being called by God, and led by the Holy Spirit, into something new, messy as it may be. And I think this break from cultural familiarity, this break from social expectation, this emerging counter-cultural nature of Christianity gives us a new and incredible freedom.
We gather to worship, pray, eat and serve. We gather to learn from scripture what it means to be disciples, to support one another as we shed cultural notions of what success looks like, and practice living lives of service, sacrifice and commitment to something beyond ourselves. We gather to know and to be known, to love and be loved; by God, yes, but also by the community that Christ calls together. And as we share in Holy Communion, we are gathered together, and then sent out to be God’s hands and feet and beating heart in this world. That’s not death friends, that’s abundant life.
So whether you’re a proud card carrying lifer in the Lutheran church, or whether you’re just checking out this church thing for the first time; know that there change a foot. But also know that this change doesn’t mean death. God loves God’s people. God loves each one of you so much, and in Christ promises that you are forgiven, healed, and then set free to live abundantly, to seek out community, to extend the reach of this church beyond the boundaries of our culture and tribe, beyond numbers in Pew Research forum surveys, beyond any limitations we might put on God or the church. You are set free to be midwives, with God, in the birthing of this new chapter of what it means to God’s people.