December 31, 2011

Two Thousand Eleven.

This year has been absolutely incredible. Words fail me when I try and think of some cute and cliche way to sum up what 2011 has meant for me. This was the year that I took off and started the beginnings of a life full of adventure.
One year ago tonight I was sitting in a campground in New Mexico getting ready for my cousin's wedding, and my thoughts kept going back to the thought that that little trip to New Mexico was the last trip that I would make before I moved to Florida. All I could think about was the fact that after the ball dropped and the date turned into 2011, my life would begin to speed up and change faster than I could immagine. And oh man, it did. January flew by in a midst of packing and planning until before I knew it February found me driving south to figure out my place in the world.
My life was insane in Florida. Working for Disney was everything and nothing like I ever immagine it would be like. Some days were so crazy magical that I would have to pinch myself to believe that it was real life. Some days were hard, brutally hard, and it took every ounce of perseverance to keep myself from driving home. I met friends who stole my heart completely, friends who I still miss and think of every day. I met people who tested my character and I encountered situations that forced me to grow up. Even months after I've been home, there are days when the sky looks a certain way, or I smell a certain smell and in my head I'm instantly standing in front of Popcorn 2, staring Cinderella's castle down, and waiting for the fireworks to go off. There's something about being a Disney cast member that nothing else can compare's magical. The days were slow but the weeks were fast, and in the 6 months that I lived in Orlando working for the mouse I've never had my cravings for adventure so satisfied and my faith so tested. It was good. Really good.
My turn around between Disney and SNU was so short, a small four days, that I didn't even unpack my car. I just transferred my life from my car to a new dorm room. I came into college feeling heartbroken, completely homesick for the life I left behind and the friends that I missed with everything that I was. Without a fair clean slate, I came into college thinking that it could never live up to the adventures that I'd been living. And while the adventures have been so very different, SNU slipped in and staked a claim on my heart with ease. The friends that I've met at SNU have been so amazing, supporting me, encouraging me, humoring my restless streak...and I couldn't immagine my life without them.
My first semester of college was an incredible semester, a lot like Disney when it comes down to it because it was filled with good days and hard days. There were days when I was homesick for the life I left behind in Florida. There were days when I was knocked down because I was so demoralized with running. And then there were days when I laughed until I cried with newfound friends. Days when I looked around and realized just how blessed I was by the people in my life.
Sometimes adventure is a little bit more subtle that the fireworks across the night sky in the Magic Kingdom, but that doesn't make it any less worthwhile. 2011 was a year that shook up my world. From jumping out of a plane over Cape Canaveral to walking through the Yukon lights with a group of friends that I can't wait to spend the next few years with... I can't even begin to say how thankful I am for the friends that have stolen my heart this year. From Japan to Washington to Wales to Louisiana, my love got scattered all over the world is 2011...and I have never been more blessed by the people who I can point to and say, "They made this year amazing."

This is me praying that this was the very first page
Not where the story line ends
My thoughts will echo your name until I see you again
These are the words I held back
As I was leaving too soon
I was enchanted to meet you

Au Revoir 2011
Hey there 2012 :)

December 22, 2011

A Legacy of Christmas

I'm catching myself tapping out letters on my keyboard 22 minutes after I told myself that I would be asleep. I never liked having a bedtime when I was little either.
It goes without saying that in just a few days it will be Christmas day, which is, if you don't know me very well, one of my favorite days of the year. Me and Cortney have been in the Christmas spirit since before Thanksgiving. We had late night excursions to find Christmas trees, along with peppermint hot coco dates, and decorating our dorm afternoons...all in all, it can be said of Suite 200 that we have keep the Christmas cheer alive. And now here Christmas is, just a few days away from showing up, slipping in and out with much ado, and then sneaking away to leave the whole world waiting another 364 days until we can say again, "Merry Christmas!"
My grandpa (on my dad's side) loved Christmas. He was notorious for plotting what gifts to give months ahead of time, and his generosity has become his legacy. I was too little to remember an awfully lot about him, but every year at Christmas I feel like I hear new stories about the gifts that he gave and the way that he loved Christmas with his whole heart.
 My grandpa grew up in a Jewish family. Actually, he started off not living with much of a family at all. When my great grandma died my grandpa and his brother were sent to live in an orphanage, which is where he remained until he was 12 years old. At that point in time his father remarried and took his children back into his household to raise. When my grandpa was around 18, he encountered Christ, and it forever changed his life. As a strict Orthodox Jew living with his Jewish family in New York, Christianity was never an my Grandpa shook up his world when he chose to follow Christ. He was disowned. Kicked out of the family. It was many decades before anyone from his family ever spoke to him again.
After that, my grandpa became an ordained minister, loving the process of learning like the best of academics ever could. Then my Grandpa answered a call to return to the people who had disowned him, moving his family to Israel to be a missionary to the Jews. That's where my dad was born. That's the place where I can't wait to go someday to walk the streets that my dad grew up on and see the homeland of the Savior that I worship. My heritage. My history. My grandpa's choice to take up his cross and follow Jesus.
Christmas reminds me so much of him. Because when I think of my Grandpa and how much he loved Christmas, it reminds me that this holiday is worth so much more than just a commercial experience. People like my Grandpa sacrificed everything that they loved in pursuit of the Savior that the world denied. My grandpa never celebrated Christmas growing up, but as an adult he celebrated it with a passion that made up for lost years. He recognized that significance of Christmas and knew that it was a holiday that was so significant to the Christian faith that it deserved to be kept well.
 Giving. Loving. Sacrificing. Rejoicing.
I've grown up in a totally different way than my Grandpa did. I have a very tight knit family, I've grown up in a strong Christian household, and Christmas has always been celebrated properly...but it wouldn't be this way if it wasn't for the choices my Grandpa made in his life. And Christmas? Well, I'm not sure how the rest of my family feels, but I know that every year when Christmas comes around, I think about my Grandpa and the way that I want to live as generously as he lived. I want to leave a legacy like that. 

Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a 

conspiracy of love. - Hamilton Wright Mabie

December 19, 2011

100 Blog Posts Later - It Still Comes Down to Running

It's dark outside with clouds. 
For it being 2 o'clock in the afternoon it looks like the sun is setting.
 And it's raining, hard. 
Thunder and lightning. 
The sky is electric. 
But as soon as the lightning clears, I'm lacing up my running shoes. 
As soon as the road is safe, I'll be on it. 
I don't really want to run today. 
I don't want to do a long run in the pouring rain, but I'm lacing up my shoes anyway. 
Because today I'm determined that this is the day when I run through the pain. 
I'm tired of this injury. 
I'm not okay never feeling okay running anymore. 
So today I'm starting over. 
Clean slate. 
Pouring rain. 
I'm going to fight to make this run a good run. 
I'm going to fight to make today the day when I begin training hard. 
Forget hip flexors. 
Forget slow milage. 
Forget painful movements. 
I'm over it. 
I'm ready to run half marathons again. 
I'm ready to be at the top of my game again. 
So I'm going to do something crazy. 
I'm going to layer up in the cold. 
I'm going to leave the ipod and phone at home so that I don't fry their circuits. 
And I'm going to run my heart out through the rain. 
Today, I'm forgetting all of the things that have pushed me down this semester and I'm going to fight for the very thing that has always propelled me to go further and faster in my life. 
I may come back cold and wet and physically drained, but I need to fight for what I believe in again. 
I need this run. 

December 13, 2011

Finish Line - Finals Weeks

My first week as a college student going through the routines of finals. Study dates. Coffee. Sugar. Naps. Exhaustion. Laughing at a million things that any other week this semester, would not have been that funny. It's the combination of tired minds and the closeness of Christmas that have a way of exciting every college student on this campus. We're sleepy. We're tired of school. We're done with our classes. And we are so so close to the finish line.
That's the nice thing about college, there are mini goals in sight. It's not like I'm sitting here as a freshman thinking "I have three and a half long years ahead of me." I'm sitting here thinking, "One more day until I have finished my first semester as a full time college student. Man time flies." This semester has gone by so quickly.
It's been an awesome semester, but it's been hard. It's been good because it needed to be hard. Needs to be hard. I need to struggle. I need to feel the tension between where I am and where I am supposed to be. Discovering my in the moment purpose has been hard for me to uncover after a season of life where my purpose was so crystal clear. I have my long term goals, but I haven't figured out my short term goals yet.
Maybe that's what trips me up. I spent so long on short term goals to accomplish one really big long term goal, and now that I've finished the long term goal, now that I've climbed the mountain, I still haven't figured out how to get back down gracefully. I haven't learned how to move from one phase of life to the next.
But those thoughts will have to wait for another day. Right now, there is an Intro to Politics study guide to write and a final to study for. It's a good feeling knowing that the finish line is in sight. 

December 5, 2011

Running - I Have Never Lost

I may not be the fastest
I may never finish first
I may run for selfish reasons
Like sanity.
I may run just to see nature
I may never run to win a competition
I may never win.
But I have never lost.
I have never wasted my time.
I have never regretted my choices.
I have never thrown my shoes down and walked away.
There’s more at stake in running than physical action.
There’s mental strength.
There’s determination.
It’s putting on your shoes when your body is in pain.
It’s fighting through the way everybody else views your performance and running because you need to run.  
It’s getting up the nerve to face your fears.
I may never win a race.
But I have never lost. 

December 3, 2011

Panera Bread Date with Jesus

The first time I went to Panera Bread by myself was back in March, about one month after I moved to Florida. Bible and journal in hand I sat down, nibbled on a Fuji Apple salad, sipped a hot chocolate, and poured my heart out into words for two hours. My mom texted me during that time and asked what I was doing, I told her that I was having a date with God. It was true.
I'm on a date with God again today. The scenery is a little different. I'm watching NW Expressway speed by outside instead of the traffic from the Millennia Mall. I'm waiting for an old friend of mine to show up and work on homework with me. I'm minutes away from from the homes that I grew up in instead of the Vista Way, the place that I'll always be able to call my first apartment. But when it comes down to it, the situations are the same...I needed to talk to God today, I needed to talk to God back in March, and Panera Bread seems to be our favorite date spot.
This week has been so hard. I've had to watch two close friends of mine from Florida struggle with battles that seem larger than life. So large that they have been on the verge of giving up completely. And I'm not there to hug them. I'm not there to say, "Hey, you know that there is always hope, right? You know that this darkness, this pain, it's not the end?" But I'm not there.
When I lived in Florida I was constantly aware of the darkness that I was living in. The community that I was surrounded by lived lives that were very self gratifying for the moment, but in the long run, there was so much pain. So much brokenness. I remember feeling a pressure to be the salt and light into the world. The thought would cross my mind all the time, "You have to show them what it's like to have hope in Jesus, Mandy. Because no one else is here right now to do it. This is your calling right now. Be the light." I lived a sin saturated community and I loved people like I've never loved people before in my life. I had my heart stolen and broken by a broken generation. And it was so worth it. I learned more about my faith through the 6 months that I lived in Florida than I ever even knew was possible to learn. I fell in love with a hundred friends who in any other situation, I would never have fallen in love with. I learned what it means to look past social stigma's, to look past sexual orientations, to look past the fast judgements that Christians are known for making, and people. It didn't mean that I agreed with their choices or lifestyles, but I loved them nonetheless. And it was so hard, but so, so, good. 
The problem with that comes when I'm gone and my heart still loves the people, but they are still living in the darkness. Still refusing to see hope. And I, I'm not there to do anything. I'm not there to be a friend. I'm loving people from a distance that is tearing me up inside. Their choices are tearing me up inside.
I went to Panera in March because my heart was hurting then too. The night before had been one of the worst nights that I had experienced since I'd moved to Florida. I was so worn thin. Emotionally played. Hurt. I drove to a Panera Bread thirty minutes away instead of the one across from my apartment because I wanted to go to a place where I knew that the chances of me running into somebody I knew where slim. I needed to escape. That's why I'm here today. I'm worn thin. I've been emotionally played. I need an escape. Even if it's just down the street to a Panera Bread where nobody knows my name. Knows my story. Nobody knows that sometimes, I fake being okay when I'm not. Sometimes all I need is a chance to be by myself and think problems through. Sometimes I just need to go on Panera Bread dates with God and remember that in the long run, it will work out.

"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." 2 Corinthians 12:9-10