As leaves change color and drift to the ground, I am reminded of the natural process of letting go. Every year, trees let go of their coverings for winter, trusting that new life will bud from their branches in the spring.
Like many students, I often find myself grasping for control of my life, clinging to bits of order, consequently spiraling further and further out of control. When you hold on too tightly to life, it falls through your fingers like sand, leaving you stressed and frantic as you scramble to pick it back up. A couple weeks ago, my life had reached this point – I needed to know what ‘the plan’ was, where my life was going; I needed to be in control. Instead, I lost all control and purpose.
In the past weeks as the trees have begun to let go, I too have focused on letting go of control, surrendering my life to God. My life has since ordered itself into a beautiful, exciting exploration. By letting go of control, I have found peace. I no longer need to know the answers; I rejoice in living the questions.
My favorite season is Fall. Beautiful leaves changing color, the air is crisp and fresh, and God is present throughout all of this! Every beautiful landscape and friendly face encountered mirrors God’s love for each and every one of us.
As school is sufficiently underway and midterms are here, it can be difficult to stop and observe all of the wonder and beauty that He created/is creating.
One significant friendly-face encounter that I have had so far this Fall was at Tuesday Soup. There was a volunteer, Luke, from Young Adults in Global Mission (YAGM) that attended. He talked about the programs internationally that we could partake in as being “God’s hands” in this world. I personally have been contemplating taking a year off from my studies between undergrad and, hopefully, professional schooling, and this program seems to fit perfectly! This experience was one that I was not expecting, but could turn out to be a pivotal event for me and others.
During this beautiful season, I encourage all of you to take the time to observe and experience God’s creative hand in your life. Whether it is sharing coffee with a friend, taking a bike ride, or studying, enjoy what you are doing and remember God’s love for you.
In my family, birthday celebrations are not a big event. However, I have learned that for many people this is not the case. Celebrating someone’s birthday is a time where the birthday person is lavished with exceptional kindness and generosity. This past week I celebrated my birthday, but in a very different way than in past years.
The difference this year is due to my roommates. They went above and beyond what anyone could have thought a birthday celebration to be. The day started off with cinnamon rolls and flowers, continued with birthday cake and presents, and concluded with a birthday dinner at Olive Garden! Maybe the fact that we are all college students made me even more flabbergasted by their immense generosity. It was hard for me to fathom taking time out of their lives to plan for all of these components of the birthday surprise and to be sneaky about them.
It is mind boggling to me that people would do this when I did nothing to deserve such a wonderful gift. If you think about it, I did nothing to be born. My mother did all the work, but yet I am praised for it being my birthday. This same concept is similar for being a part of the family of God. I did nothing to be accepted as a part of this amazing family, and still I am part of this community of believers and reap so many benefits. I have so much to be thankful for: my family, friends, roommates, and community of believers to name only a few.
I encourage all of you to see how you can influence someone’s day for the better. Whether that be opening a door for someone else, or offering a word of encouragement. It is amazing how much these little gestures add up to a brighter day.
I know, it’s hard to believe, especially for those of you who know how much I hate the construction that’s happening on campus, but I saw God in the construction on Friday.
I had been busy all week helping plan and organize a dinner for my robotics group, and was feeling very overwhelmed as I ran around campus, having to take alternate routes as the closed routes between home and class continued to be unpredictable. I met some friends and brought stuff to Coffman where the dinner would be, and took off once again to pick up food from Jimmy Johns. As I crossed Harvard St, I noticed a huge piece of construction equipment stationed in the construction area in front of Espresso Expose. Right in front of it was a man holding a young boy, probably about 2 years old. Their peaceful observation and childlike wonder was enough to slow me down. Besides wishing I could be that young and carefree again, I was reminded to take a minute to slow down and smell the roses. I’ve begun to slow down a little bit as I pass the construction and notice all the improvements that they are making daily instead of only complaining about how the streets are torn up and seem to have been for so long.
Last Thursday morning, while taking my bike on a quick spin around the Lakes for a morning workout, another speedy biker turned right into me. This is my fourth summer of biking on roads and trails; in races, to work, and for fun…and this is the first time I’ve crashed big time. As I sat up, blood was dripping from my hand, my shoulder was getting stiffer by the second, and the foam on my bike helmet was shattered.
It was incredibly scary for me. My first phone call was full of tears, and my voice still cracks a bit when I think about the magnitude of it all. The doctor has now told me three times, “You know, if you weren’t wearing a helmet, you’d probably be dead – or at least in a coma.” That’s enough to knock anyone off kilter for a bit.
The good news is that I’m okay, if a bit shaken. My wounds have been scrubbed and dressed, my shoulder x-rayed, my head scanned. But more than that, strangers rushed to check on me, husbands were late to work because their wives waited with me, one runner ran to get her car to drive me and my tousled bicycle home. I was checked in on by doctors and nurses, driven around by co-workers and friends, and doted on, really, by all.
What amazes me is what a display of human fragility and vulnerability can bring out in people; the innate call to nurture, protect, and come to the rescue of those in danger; the reorientation of priorities; a rush of gratitude. We have to, I believe, be created good.
At base, my brokenness elicited a call to others. It reminded them of who they were, and what was possible. And for me, this fragility, this vulnerability stripped me bare in a way I haven’t experienced in a while. I was brought to my knees in gratitude for the goodness of people, the love that surrounds me, and the gift of life. Thanks be to God.
Wild Geese, by Mary Oliver
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
Over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
Calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
As I drove to work this morning, four lanes of traffic were stopped at the North end of Lake Calhoun. A flock of geese on their way South had wandered into the middle of Lake Street and wasn’t moving. Cars honked their horns once or twice, but once it was clear the geese weren’t responding, everyone just stopped for a minute and enjoyed the moment.
These geese, assured of their place in the world, and their place on their journey, were taking their time as they headed home again. Assured of their place in this world, they were absolutely unphased by all of our human rush and annoyance. In their confidence, and in that pause, I was reminded again of the breadth of what I experience as Holy.
Lately I’ve been thinking about how insufficient the categories are that we ascribe to our experience of the Holy: believers, unbelievers, spiritual, religious, practicing, secular, sacred. I’ve become convinced that they create categories of insiders and outsiders, and though giving us language to describe our connection with God…or lack thereof…somehow these categories, these words, make the encounter with Mystery into something static, fixed, limited. And they create artificial boundaries between us and other people.
We get so wound up in our definitions of ourselves and our communities that we forget the broader scheme of things, the life that exists outside of our human knowing, and in that lose sight of the fact that everyone, no matter who you are or what category you might currently be in, has a place in the family of things.
My prayer for our Christian community is that we might call out to all people(whether in our squawking, or in our waddling across Lake Street). My prayer is that we embody the reality that all people have a place in the family of things.
There gets to be a time for college students when you feel like every one of your classes is racing by at a hundred miles an hour, and you still haven’t left the parking lot. It has been less than a month into school, and I have already begun to have similar feelings toward school. Many of my classes move by at an extremely fast pace, and I often find myself struggling to keep up. It is times like these that I am forced to plan out a homework and study schedule, just so that I can get my assignments completed on time. When I make these tight schedules, I am regretfully forced to leave out time for myself, and often time for God.
The retreat this past weekend forced me to set aside all my burdens of school and really take some time for myself. I was able to calm my mind and really reflect on my life. I thought about why I am even in college and what I hoped to get out of it. I was also able to see how worrying about all of my assignments and midterms and deadlines actually distracts me from my relationships with friends, family, and God. Although it is important to keep these things in mind, our whole lives should not be devoted to tests and busy work. We should be focusing on our relationships, and not worrying so much about the future. Sometimes things happen that are out of our control, but it is up to us how we respond to them.
This retreat really helped me to put my life into perspective, because I was able to momentarily set aside the things that put a veil over the important aspects of life. Though I am still not sure where I am headed for the rest of my years in college, I can rest assured that everything will be all right. I need to worry less about what is beyond my control, and focus on how I can improve what is within my control. My relationships with God, my friends, and family are all things that I can improve, and I will do my best to make sure that I keep them at the forefront of my life.
Come tomorrow, I will officially have been back in the Twin Cities for a month. Wait… what? Inconceivable!
As I reflect back on the time which has already been spent, I can affirm that the most treasured assets to the University and to Lutheran Campus Ministry are people. Those friendships and connections which first introduced me to the greatness of this place held true as I returned in August. Over the past month, I’ve spent time reconnecting with old friends, meeting new ones, and even cultivating better relationships with people whom I had already known. I was graciously taken in by my great-uncle Bob and great-aunt Laurel for my first week back during LCM leader training. Their hospitality and friendliness were greatly appreciated as we got to know each other better over the week (we had previously only talked with each other at semi-annual family reunions). Kate, Emily, Chelsea, Nate, Lisa, Sara, Laura, Sarah, Laura, Kalysta, Joe, Meghan, Valerie, Ellen, Bryna, Eric, Andrew and I spent our first week back takin’ care of LCM business while catching up where we had left off with each other in May. By the end of the week, we were so well reacquainted with each other that we completed a “blind” team-building exercise within a minute’s time. Inconceivable!
Since classes have begun, the focus has shifted back to the daily grind. New courses, new professors, new classmates, and new responsibilities have kept us excited and busy. At times the weight of it all can be overwhelming, with days that have nonstop action. This past Sunday, I woke up, went to worship at Grace, immediately power-walked to work, and went back to Grace for Bread & Belonging as soon as my shift was done. While the day was long, I was lucky enough to meet Wallace Shawn at work (Vizzini from Princess Bride). Inconceivable!
To those new or returning students who have already felt the stress of balancing school and life as I have, I offer this piece of advice. Even though you can’t put the pressures that come along with college to rest for good, you can find relief in the form of community. Finding times in the week to sit, relax, and talk to other students who understand the hectic college life is a great way to put your mind at ease. If you’re at all interested in getting to know some new friends, finding a relaxing place to worship, or simply to eat some great food, consider Lutheran Campus Ministry. Inconceivable? Hardly.
A couple weeks of school have passed and I think it’s safe to say that we’ve all been keeping busy! The first Pause service of the year was held on the 7th and it was great to see all kinds of new faces walk through the door and to hear the Pause Band filling the sanctuary with music again. We, with the help of crayons and Pastor Kate, dove into a tricky verse that really presented us with an image of God that we aren’t used to or necessarily comfortable with- an angry, violent God. It was a great night to really ‘pause’ and reflect on things. And the night of course, ended with some rockin pizza and socializing.
On another note, I think the outreach team has finally settled on a name and has been steadily adding songs to its repertoire! Twang of Joy has been working on a few songs of the “Tealgrass” persuasion and currently consists of some voices, a mandolin, a ukulele, a fiddle, a guitar, and an Ikea bag full of wonder. Oooooo! We can currently be spotted at Bread and Belonging and are hoping to soon be coming to a bridge near you:-)
I have seen God this week in the faces, love and hugs of old friends- In the warmth and welcoming I have received from new classmates/random people at Starbucks/people of Grace- And in the strong promise I feel for this year. I can’t wait to see what the year holds!
The week before school started, 16 LCM leaders got together to start planning for the year to come. How would we get new students interested? What little things could we do to brighten up campus? The first day was especially stressful, thinking of the whirlwind that would soon follow. But then we started to get to know each other and learn each others strengths, and soon were certain that, together, with the help of God, we could handle the craziness of the coming year.
Through the week I saw God in many places:
– In the graciousness of members of Grace eager to build relationships with our students
– In the community we built, trusting each other, being there for each other when we needed it most, and being able to bring our whole selves to the table.
– In the willingness to take on responsibilities that we didn’t plan on taking on, but knowing the importance, and taking responsibility for them.
– In the beautiful weather we got to go outside to enjoy during breaks.
– In the eager faces of the freshmen as they moved into their new home away from home.
Thank you for being with us in this time of transition as we struggle to get in the swing of things. Thank you for the amazing people I have met through LCM and help us to continue to deepen our relationships. Continue to bring us all peace in our busy times now that classes have once again started.