Light: An Allegory, Part 2

It hadn’t rained for weeks.

The sweet, dusk-drenched breeze drifting through my windows lulled me to sleep, whispering promises of warm summer nights into my dreams.

At midnight, I woke to the sound of sirens in the distance and the wispy presence of smoke that hung in the air. In my sleep-laced haze, I yanked my window closed and drowned out the rest of the world in the warmth beneath my pillow.

Before sunrise, I woke again, restless. I dressed quickly and let my feet carry me out the door and through the misty morning, half a mile away…to the strange house with the pinhole in the stone wall.

My suspicions were confirmed as I approached. The whole house lay in shambles around the yard—save for part of the stone wall, which stood, half-crumbling, in the middle of the wreckage. Scorched bits of wood and shattered glass that glittered in the growing dawn framed the silhouette of the man, dressed in a dark coat, ash-smudged, sitting next to the ruined wall, turning over a stone in his hands.

I sat next to him.

I can’t believe it…it’s just gone. Just like that, he breathed, almost inaudibly. I nodded.

They said it was an electrical fire—a failed fuse, or something. But it wasn’t…I know it wasn’t, he said.

I don’t understand, I started to say, but he cut me off.

I decided to dig through the wall, he said slowly, I finally worked through the mortar and pulled out a single stone—it was all I could manage. And as soon as I did, the light crept up the rock and clear through to the roof, and before I even knew it, the house was ablaze. Everything was dry as bone, there was no holding back the flames. It was as if the whole place began to fall apart from the inside out, like the only thing that had been holding it up…was this wall.

We sat in silence, save for the sound of my racing heartbeat and his slow, heavy breathing.

Broken things can be rebuilt, you know, I whispered.

How? It’s gone—everything I’ve known—gone, he said, his voice cracking beneath the weight of his own words. He sighed, his breath tracing wispy circles in the cold air, settling into the shadows behind the dawn that surrounded us. I let the stillness linger, because for once silence seemed too beautiful to break all at once.

Just start here, I finally said, taking the rock from his hands, One stone at a time. I’d say this is the makings of a fine new foundation, don’t you?

I turned over the rock in my hands, tracing the strange etchings—a dove, an anchor, a crown of thorns. I let my eyes meet his. To my surprise, he smiled. I suppose we have to take the rest down, don’t we? he asked.

Together? I said. He nodded.

It took some doing, but with the two of us pushing against the wall, it wasn’t long before the rest of it landed in a heap, mortar and stone settling quietly beneath the crimson sunrise that drenched the world. The warmth of the new day crept over my skin and clear down into my bones. And somehow, in the sunshine, it began to rain—warm, sweet, renewing—washing the ashes from ground beneath our feet.

Will you rebuild it with me? he said. I mean, I know it’ll be hard, and I don’t know if you’ll even be around to finish the whole thing, and I’m really starting from scratch again, but I can’t do this alone… he trailed off.

Thing is: I know the one who built this house to begin with, I said, and I’ve seen his blueprints, and…they’re beautiful. You have no idea how long he’s been waiting to help you start over.

And you’ll help me too then? he said again.

I took his hand and smiled. One stone at a time.

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On loving recklessly….

There’s a popular song by Jeremy Camp that I’ve heard on the radio called “Reckless”. The song essentially talks about living a life in reckless abandon for God. Awesome. I can get behind that. I’ll sing and dance to those lyrics…

“I wanna be reckless
Cause You are endless
I wanna be shameless
And shout Your greatness
I will not be afraid
To surrender my way
And follow who You are
I wanna be reckless, reckless”…

But at the end of the day, when the worship service is over, I’m left wondering: what on earth is that supposed to look like in my life? Because, you know, I live in a world where I interact with people every day and stuff, and nobody ever told me what Mr. Camp meant by living recklessly.

Well, for starters, before I look at the whole reckless thing, a brief evaluation of how I live in my feeble little human effort to serve God. Right now, that consists of two things (taken from Mark 12:30-31): Love God. Love people.

Sooo, I love—albeit, imperfectly—but I love. So, assuming that I’m understanding Mr. Camp’s message correctly, if I put two and two together, I’m supposed to love…well, recklessly. To be honest, I’ve wrestled with this. Like, am I really supposed to give it all, to put my heart on the line and risk it breaking, to pour my love out to those in my life that need it? I think the answer goes two ways…

In many Christian circles, I repeatedly hear one very vague message regarding how we ought to love: “guard your heart”, pulled from Proverbs 4:23:

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”

And, I mean, that’s nice and all—and yes, I understand that certain circumstances do require boundaries to protect the incredibly valuable gift that God gave has given us—but to end our conversation there oversimplifies and cheapens what Christ-like love can and should really look like. I believe that Jesus calls us a much richer, deeper example of love…

“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:12-13)

That sounds a whole lot closer to the type of reckless love we sing about on Sunday mornings.

What does that look like? Well, to me, it means a few things.

Loving when it doesn’t always make sense.

Loving deeply.

Loving unconditionally and without reservation.

Such a love is risky. I think C.S. Lewis articulated this issue far better than I could have:

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken…We shall draw nearer to God, not by trying to avoid the sufferings inherent in all loves, but by accepting them and offering them to Him; throwing away all defensive armour. If our hearts need to be broken, and if He chooses this as the way in which they should break, so be it.”

To love the way that Christ did can and does hurt oftentimes, but time and time again, this is the kind of love illustrated in scripture.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:43-45)

 “Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:7-8)

What holds us back from reckless love? In a word: fear. I know it does for me.

But this should not be the end of the story:

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.We love because He first loved us. “
-1 John 4:18-19

A critical analysis of myself. By me, my own worst critic.

I laugh too hard and too loud about things that aren’t even funny, at times that are terribly inappropriate. (Here’s looking at you, sixteen-year-old Serena who was shushed by her family every other second at the live theatre.)

I’m just…generally loud. All the Italian blood in my family+growing up with brothers+almost ten years of theatre=loud Serena. Like, all the time. Full disclosure: I still don’t know how to whisper.

Growing up with brothers means that I’m not as gentle with things like people. I squeeze them too hard in my hugs, give high fives that leave marks, and hit them harder than what would be considered “teasing”.

I am impatient. I can’t wait the two minutes it takes to toast a slice of bread—much less bigger things.

Because of my impatience, I run life at a speed that’s just a few seconds too fast. So I run into things daily. I drop things. I break things. I trip over things. Oops.

I can hardly ever find the right words to say when I want to say them, which means word vomit is a daily struggle. Yes, the struggle is very real.

I pour myself into whatever I’m doing 110%, which is often stupid, because it means that my heart breaks at least twice as often as it should, since I don’t know how to do anything really without putting my heart on the line. Though some would say it’s a strength, more often it makes me feel like an idiot for putting all of my eggs in one basket.

I’m too short with people that matter to me—my siblings, my roommates, etc. Though mostly unintentional, there’s a subconscious side of Serena that knows just how to push people’s buttons in exactly the way it will hurt most.

I still can’t keep my room clean for more than 2.8 seconds. I’m twenty freaking years old, and yet somehow I can’t input enough energy to keep entropy from increasing all day, e’ry day.

I still can’t say “er’y day” without sounding like a fool.

I take a very, very long time to forgive myself. It’s like there’s a part of me that wants to pay penance by repeatedly beating me up for my mistakes.

I’m sentimental to the point that it’s almost gross. (Like, I just threw up a little in my mouth just thinking about it.) I mean, it’s not so bad when it’s just like “oh, hey, remember when we…”, but when it gets to the point that I’m like “GAH WHY SO MANY MEMORIES I CAN’T REVISIT”, it’s kind of a problem.

I live under a rock—a fact established by a friend in freshman year English that I’ve owned up to ever since. I’m more introverted than I’d like to admit. Which is fine, of course, but I have a tendency to draw away from people when I need them most. Ouch.

Though this hasn’t been as much of a problem recently, I still find my emotions difficult to express. Like, I’m still not comfortable crying in front of 99% of the people I know.

Oh, and that reminds me—somehow, my tear ducts are only active when it’s a totally inappropriate time. They’re more active when I’m frustrated at my own stupidity, rather than when I should be sad with someone else.

I’m not as comfortable in my own skin as I would like to be. I mean, I love most things about me, but somehow I still find myself comparing my hair/body/life to someone else’s.

I’m still scared of my own shadow—and by that, I mean I’m scared of the dark parts of me…the monsters that I have that I still have to fight back. Thank God I can fight them with Christ by my side, or else this one would be a lot scarier.

I let my thoughts run away from me and take my sanity with them. And maybe that makes me a daydreamer, but at the very least it means that I have trouble living in the present. More often, I’m mentally stuck in the past or wondering about the future—it’s so hard to just be here.

With all of this criticism, you’d think I hate myself—but I don’t. Because despite my shortcomings and failures and flaws, I know the truth:

I am loved.

I am redeemed.

I am God’s precious child.

I am not defined by my mistakes.

I can forgive, because I am forgiven.

I am precisely where He wants me to be.

I am washed clean in the blood of my Christ.

I have hope, because He is still writing my story.

I have value and worth in the sight of my Creator.

I have peace in knowing that He hears my prayers.

I have a heart that is filled to overflowing with His joy.

I am known intimately by my Heavenly Father, and He loves me anyway.

I have access to His unending grace, and His mercies are new every morning.

Light: An Allegory

Inspiration struck to do a bit of creative writing, and allegories are a favorite, so voila…Light: An Allegory. Some elements are borrowed from real things, but it’s mostly fictional. I’m experimenting a bit with formatting and playing with some literary devices, so I think it came out almost poetic-ish. Please do enjoy. (:

The door was open, so I let myself in. The storm brewing outside urged me onward, the wind closing the door behind me. My footsteps echoed on the floorboards, announcing my presence, but the rest of world remained quiet, save the persistent patter of raindrops against the windowpane. A cold cup of coffee and an open journal greeted me, as though the inhabitant of the house had just stepped out for a minute, but had been gone far longer than he had intended.

The fingerprints on the walls told me that this place was well-visited. Though I wanted to believe that it had been pleasant company, the grime and dust insisted otherwise.

I wandered farther in, and where I had expected emptiness, I found chaotic fullness. Keepsakes were plastered across the chilly walls like memories on the walls of a man’s mind. There were ordinary things, of course… ticket stubs, bottle caps, wrinkled love letters, pressed leaves, faded photos, with some more unusual pieces interspersed—hospital bracelets, a dented road sign, empty pens, a single bullet casing. The room exuded the formality of an art gallery, but still carried the solemnness of a memorial, as though it were more than just a mosaic of a bittersweet past. Something deep within the room seemed to ache, resonating from the floorboards to the ceiling, as if the house itself were longing to be made into a home. Though the place was still dim and cold, somewhere within the brokenness, there was beauty.

The damp made me shiver as I tiptoed into the kitchen. My only company there was a few dishes in the sink, a wilted maple sapling in a pot on the windowsill, and a stack of papers at the kitchen table. A woodstove in the corner that may have once given life to the whole house looked as if it hadn’t been used in years. Scuffmarks on the tile recorded what must have been dance steps from some evening long forgotten. I smiled as I traced the steps across the floor, closing my eyes to let my imagination fill the silence with an orchestra, kept in time by the rhythm of my own heartbeat. A clap of thunder quite literally shook me from my daydream and knocked me off balance; I worked to steady my breathing before I let my feet carry me through the house once more.

In the bedroom, a combination of neat bookshelves and tousled sheets suggested a sort of carefree, yet structured lifestyle that had once existed there. What struck me as odd, though, was one wall made of stone that contrasted rather starkly with the quiet plaster that composed the remainder of the house. I ran my hand over the rough rock, trying to envision the circumstances under which such a wall would have been built. Some of the stones were engraved—initials, illegible phrases, long thoughtful scrawlings—but nearly all of them had been scratched out or worn away by time. My fingers found an inconsistency in the mortar between the stones. I scraped at it carefully, letting my hands work their way through old dust. It wasn’t long before my fingers found something peculiar—the tiniest hint of a warm draft. I dug farther, ignoring the numbness of my chilled fingers, seeking the source of the warmth. An inch or so into the depths of the mortar, I found the pinhole from that it must have radiated from. Squinting into the tiny cavern I had dug, I swore I saw light pouring through the pinhole. I traced my work through the mortar around the stone…a nearly invisible crack snaked up and around it, splitting off into a dozen directions before it disappeared beyond the ceiling and out of sight.

Raindrops were no longer beating out as quick of a tempo as they had before, and I knew that I had to find my way home before dusk, so I made my way back to the front door. As I stepped out into the newly-washed world, I vowed that this would not be the last time I visited the lonely house with the pinhole in the stone wall.

I returned late the next week and knocked softly on the door, even though it was already open like it had been the last time. It was just as cold and dreary inside as it was outside. Despite the chill, I set straight to work on picking through the mortar. It was slow-going, but I knew that this was undoubtedly the beginning of something.

I kept coming back the house for weeks afterward, each time knocking, each time finding the door open, and each time working my way through the mortar a grain of sand at a time. The pinhole grew, bit by bit, til there was finally a tiny beam of light trickling into the room.

One afternoon, I knocked, and there was an answer. A tall man dressed in a gray collared shirt and dark jeans stepped out into the misty late winter air. I stammered a hello and tried to introduce myself.

You must be the one letting the light in, he said quietly.

I nodded and let the silence settle into the corners of the fog that enveloped us. This house has been dark for a while, hasn’t it? I finally asked. The man let out a long breath and sat on the porch steps. I followed suit.

It has, he said.

Do you miss it? I managed to ask.

Miss what?

What it was before—you know, before the wall… I trailed off.

It’s difficult to remember life then, he sighed, It’s been some time since I’ve seen real light.

Do you ever think about letting it in again? I said slowly.

I don’t think you understand, he said curtly, standing up and reaching for the doorknob.

Wait, I said. Against my better judgment, I put my hand on his shoulder. He tensed.

Sorry, I murmured, dropping my hand and staring at my feet.

It wasn’t always this way… That wall you’ve been working at—I built it myself. I mixed the mortar and engraved stones and watched it grow. I knew what I was doing…I knew I’d be blocking the light. But the wall—it longed to be built. I didn’t notice the light was even gone, at first—it just sort of faded away, grew distant. Life is still beautiful you know, just…different, he said, apparently searching for the right word. I had forgotten the light was even there altogether, til you started letting it in once more. He reached for the doorknob again.

You can’t expect me to believe that’s all there is to your story.

Miss, he said, wheeling around, you have no idea. He stared at me for a moment with dark eyes whose piercing gaze somehow felt familiar. I left the door open on purpose, you know. It was an invitation—I wanted company. I needed someone to bring life to this place. But to let in light…that’s a different matter entirely.

You still haven’t answered my question.

Which one?

The one about your story, I prompted.

He closed his eyes and grimaced.

I’m sorry—I didn’t realize the memories were so painful, I quickly apologized.

No. Not painful, just…bittersweet.

Look, I should probably go—

No—stay a moment.

I feel like I already know too much about you, I said.

Surely you do—my home, the wall of memories, the stones blocking out the light

Don’t you want to let the rest of it in? I interrupted.

His gaze dropped to his feet this time. He bit his lip and awkwardly shifted his weight from one foot to the other. An eternity passed before he spoke again.

No—no, I can’t. Not now. You’ve done enough, he finally said, putting emphasis on each word. I turned to leave again.

You can still return as often as you like, he offered.

No, if I come back, I promise you I’ll just want to let more light in, I said, my voice cracking. He nodded in understanding.

My eyes stung as I ran down the street, feet tapping out the rhythm of the rain.

I stopped once to catch my breath and saw the man still on his porch, staring at the clouds as they parted.

Hello Poetry, it’s me again…

I was bitten by the poetry bug again recently; the scribblings below are the result of the bite. (; Again, I have no title for it, on account of the fact that 1) I’m not so great at titling anything and 2) I think some of the best poetry lacks titles. Plus, it’s still poetry, title or no title.

 

 

They say that the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step…
But in reality, that’s quite far from where it starts.
There is a story before the story–a preface, if you will.
But how far back must one go to truly find the beginning of a journey?

When you talk about a tree,
You never say that it started as a mere sapling–
Sure, that’s a part of its story,
But it’s still fairly distant from the true inception.
To find the real dawn of any great journey,
You must go back to something much smaller than
Ship crews, sailing charts, and expedition plans.
Like the tree, a journey starts as most things do, small: a seed.
Unassuming, unimpressive, yet practically electric with life.
An embryonic opportunity for something new and utterly beautiful.
Seeds are funny, you know.
A maple seed looks nothing like a maple tree, after all.
But given enough warmth and water,
You have something just short of a miracle: a seedling.

And so it is with our case: the great journey.
Before the expedition team, before the cartography of untamed beauty,
Before the very first step into the canopy of the unknown,
There must be a seed planted in the depths of a man’s heart.
And, kindled under the right conditions,
The seed will swell til it bursts into full growth,
Where shortly, it develops a ravenous appetite
Whose yearning can be satiated by one thing alone:
Adventure.
The scent of the unknown on the sea breeze.
A silent invitation of deer’s path through the plains.
The draw of another mountain, another river, another journey.
To feel, to touch, to taste the world and all of its secrets.
It is the beginning of a curious addiction,
And to the addict, it becomes increasingly apparent that
The only fix is to press on.
To climb.
To sail.
To explore.
To discover.

Of course, back when all it was was a seed,
You absolutely could not have dreamed what it would become.

Isn’t it funny how seeds start so small.

Poetry brewing…

I woke up a few days ago with a poem brewing in my head, and as soon as I had a few lines worked out I quickly realized, “if I don’t get this thing down on paper RIGHT NOW I think I might just explode…”

You’ll be glad to know I haven’t yet exploded. Of course, after furiously typing away at my computer for a solid ten or fifteen minutes, I then proceeded to sit on the poem for a week debating whether or not I should post it here, but then I remembered that poetry is meant to be shared, you know? I still don’t have a title for it, even a week later, but I figure that poetry doesn’t need a title to still be poetry. Enjoy. (:

 

From the moment I met you,

I’ve carried the thoughts of you around not like a knot in my stomach,

but a knot clear up in my heart.

I’ve worn your memories like a dime-store ring—

generic at worst, meaningful at best—

a bittersweet reminder that you are:

you exist, and I simply cannot ignore your presence.

And even if you manage to turn my fingers green,

I can’t help but remember

why I’ve kept you in the first place.

You’re like a tune I’ve heard through some else’s earbuds,

and though I strain to hear the words,

all I can manage to make out are fragments of the melody.

Forgettable, perhaps,

but yet the song is already caught up in my head,

and although I haven’t heard the piece loud and clear,

I cannot escape the persistent thrum of this unknown song.

And so I’ve let your melody weave its way

in and out of the folds of this gray thing called my brain;

it comes in like an unexpected house guest

and rearranges the furniture

and helps itself to the leftover oatmeal cookies

and manages to infuse the very wallpaper with its presence.

If I could just learn the words to your tune,

I tell myself,

perhaps then I could just release you back into the wild

and forget your existence altogether.

But the trouble is,

although your metaphorical song

has managed to eat up all of my metaphorical cookies,

I’m not ready let you go just yet.

Oddly enough,

I already know I won’t be satisfied

until I learn the very notes of your music itself—

backwards and forwards, by heart—

til my song gets caught up in harmony with yours.

But that’s foolish,

I chide myself,

how could one ever learn the music to a song she’s barely heard?

I suppose it happens much in the same way

you learn to dance or to ride a skateboard…

little by little,

perhaps with a few twisted ankles and skinned knees,

but gradually you learn it,

and in the end you decide

that maybe the pain was worthwhile after all.

Of course, I can’t learn the music myself:

I’ll need you to teach me.

And I’m sure I’ll stumble

over the new words,

and I’ll get frustrated

before we’re even halfway through,

but please know that I mean it when I say I want to learn your song.

An open letter to the SPU gunman

Reblogged from falconstrong….beautifully written.

falconstrong's Blog

Mr. Ybarra,

Yesterday, you walked into the doors of a place I’ve called home for years with the intent to harm. The events of June 5th are forever embedded in my mind…but probably not for the reasons you’d assume. I’ve read articles claiming that you had an obsession with Columbine and a desire to partake in a school shooting. I’m writing this letter to tell you that the school you entered yesterday is not just a school, we  are so much more…we are a family.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t angry. I am so angry. I feel violated. I feel shaken. I feel like my home has been compromised and one of my family members has been taken while others fight for their lives today. I do not understand. I cry out for answers. I lament. I’ve never felt fear as deep as I did yesterday waiting…

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The one about singleness…

Disclaimer #1: I know what you’re thinking. Not another one. Because everyone and their pet rabbit has already blogged about relationships and this is just going to be another ridiculous and rambly one to add to the massive collection. Well, yeah, probably. Or not. Guess I’ll just let you decide for yourself at the end.

Disclaimer #2: I’ve sat down to write this blog post (or one like it) probably about a dozen times, and each time, I’ve gotten just a few sentences in before just deleting the whole thing. And, quite honestly, it’s because relationships are simply a sticky thing to discuss, and I might offend somebody. In other words, if you don’t wish to risk being offended, just stop reading now. Or not. You could also keep reading and blame me later. That works too.

Disclaimer #3: Before I get going with this, I do want to settle one question: I think marriage is awesome. God designed marriage as a lifelong, intimate relationship between a man and woman, and I think that it’s an incredible thing (not to mention a beautiful metaphor of His relationship with us!). But it is not the ultimate goal. Not like I’m all wise-beyond-my-years and could tell you what the “ultimate goal” actually ought to be (other than live a life that glorifies God), but at any rate, marriage definitely isn’t the thing that makes life complete. Not like this is shocking news to any of you, but I feel like marriage is a bit over-romanticized in a lot of Christian circles, so I thought I’d throw my two cents out there.

As of late, I’ve heard a whole lot from everywhere about singleness—what to do, what not to do, how to be “happy”, and the like. Oh yeah, and my personal unfavorite: “waiting”. And every time I read someone’s thoughts on the subject, I get frustrated by the undertone of “someday”. Someday I’ll date/court the right way, someday I’ll meet my future spouse, someday I’ll get married. And that’s great and all (after all, the majority of the American population will be married at some point), but here’s the thing: marriage isn’t a guarantee. Nowhere in the Bible does it say, “And I shalt make thou married before thou reachest old age”. Like seriously, can we stop treating singleness as this lame period of waiting? Because actually, a) singleness can still be awesome and b) you might never get married anyway (or at least not necessarily when all of your friends do); after all, God has a plan for your years of singleness too (whether they’re for the span of eight years or eighty)…they’re just too precious to waste.

Can I take a second to comment on the fact that I really hate one little mantra that I hear ALL THE TIME: “You’ll love when you stop looking for it.” Well, crumb, if that’s the case, then I’m definitely going to be an old spinster for life. Can we please stop treating love like it’s this reverse psychology trick? I’m pretty sure that’s not how this works…if being 100% content with singleness is what it takes for one to get married, then you’ve got a lot of explaining to do. Here’s the thing: we’re human. Not like that’s an excuse to throw the prospect of contentment to the wind and be a love-thirsty vampire, but I do want to point out the fact that in reality, we all kind of fail at contentment. So, no, I’m not going to stop looking for love, exactly, but I’ll do my best not to let it consume me.

While I’m talking about things I hate…I need to shoot down a verse that I hear all the time in single circles: “Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4) Most of the time, I hear people quote this to prove that “well, because I desire marriage, God knows that and He’ll give it to me”. But you know what else the Bible says about the heart? “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” (Jerimiah 17:9) So, um, I’m pretty sure we’ve been reading Psalm 37:4 wrong. To quote a dear friend, “Yeah, God’s going to give you the desires of your heart, but first He’s going to change those desires.” It’s great to want marriage and all, but just because you want it doesn’t mean you’re going to get it…God has the capacity to completely revamp what you think you want, because He’s just that cool. Not to say that God won’t give you your heart’s desires, but in the end, He’s the one working on your heart in the first place.

Another thought: although one of the many perks of marriage is this incredible partnership and devotion to a lifelong best friend whereupon you make lots of miniature best friends, it is indeed possible to have that companionship with other incredible Christian men and women, even if you’re not married. Like, there’s a reason that God calls His people to be part of the body of Christ. There’s this little thing called community. And you don’t have to be married to experience it.

I’m sure that this post has been oh-so-joyous to read thus far. Great, Serena, I get to live in a cubicle for years until I become an old miser and die in my house full of cats. That’s not what I’m getting at. Because statistically speaking, you probably will get married. But I hate seeing so many of my friends living in the world of “someday”…that’s why I’m trying to emphasize the fact that God has plans for you right now, regardless of your relationship status.

So you might be wondering, “Well, Serena, I hear what you’re saying…but how are you actually living this out?” Oh, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m absolutely awful at it. I’m probably the most impatient person I know, I can’t count the number of hours I’ve spent daydreaming about L-O-V-E, and I’ll even admit that yes, I have a wedding board on Pinterest. Because yeah, I really do want to get married. Of course I do. I want someone to dance with in the kitchen, to help me raise a family, to fight by my side when the waters get rough, to kiss me on the forehead, to grow old with… but when those dreams turn into all-consuming desires, I’ve got my priorities wrong. And when it comes down to it, I know I’m an integral piece in God’s plan even in my singleness…if I choose to live with my head in the clouds, I know I’m going to miss out on a whole lot.

So what now? I don’t know, honestly. I wish I had a formula to give you, but if such a thing actually existed, I wouldn’t be writing this blog post. I don’t think there’s really a set of strategies to “make the most of singleness” or be perfect at contentment or anything along those lines…there’s just living life, and making the intentional effort to live it alongside Christ, wherever you happen to be. And yeah, I’m just as much of a failure at it as the next guy, but hey, that’s why there’s grace. Single or not, I know I still need a whole lot of it. In the meantime, I’m just going to keep plugging along the best way I know how. In the end, I know that God has a whole heck of a lot in store for me…I just can’t wait to find out what He has planned.

Musings on dance…

For those of you who don’t know, my new favorite thing about Seattle is swing dancing. Because basically, I get to dress up every Sunday night and pretend that I’m actually graceful, even if it’s just for a little while. The ballroom is the one place in the world where I can show up exhausted and still find enough energy to dance the night away.

Dance is a funny thing too…it has a way of teaching you some little things you might not have ever learned otherwise. Like the fact that communication through touch is actually a thing. I’m convinced you can have a whole conversation without ever saying a word—a quick exchange of touch and stomps and twirls and step-step-rock step are more than enough to tell a story. It’s an imperfect metaphor, of course, but still one with merit. I haven’t danced for long enough to be fluent in the language, but I’m learning. To borrow an idea from a dear friend…words are, at best, a broken medium, but through touch we have the unique chance to communicate thoughts that are simply too deep to articulate in any other way.

Another lovely little lesson that dance teaches: trust. Because on the dance floor, the lead is in control of almost every move. And, as the follow, if I am to come up with something even resembling grace and rhythm, I have to assume that he knows where he’s going. Quite frankly, I’m awful at picking up on cues and trusting the leads to do their thing—and consequently I end up tripping over my own feet more often than not—but somehow, the fellas I dance with are patient enough to put up with me as I learn to trust them to lead.

Speaking of patience…dance certainly has a way of teaching that as well. Because I’ve always been a slow learner when it comes to dance, I’ve had to learn that the best things take time. And if you rush the process, you miss out on the adventure along the way. The journey might look like nonsense and a jumble of left feet and slips and tumbles, but the most wonderful feeling in the world is finally learning that new footwork or an aerial or whatever. And then, of course, you feel like the coolest person in the world executing it on the dance floor.

Dancing has also taught me to embrace everyday moments just a little bit more. Dancing in the kitchen? Sure. In the woods? Yup. Out in the parking lot? Absolutely. I’ve learned to never pass up an opportunity to dance…you never know what sort of memories you’ll have the chance to make. And the best part? In the grand scheme of things, this is just the beginning of my dancing adventure…

Lessons from a flower…

“In all that great desert, there was not a single green thing growing, neither tree nor flower nor plant save here and there a patch of straggly gray cacti.

On the last morning [Much-Afraid] was walking near the tents and huts of the desert dwellers, when in a lonely corner behind a wall she came upon a little golden-yellow flower, growing all alone. An old pipe was connected with a water tank. In the pipe was one tiny hole through which came an occasional drop of water. Where the drops fell one by one, there grew the little golden flower, though where the seed had come from, Much-Afraid could not imagine, for there were no birds anywhere and no other growing things.

She stooped over the lonely, lovely little golden face, lifted up so hopefully and so bravely to the feeble drip, and cried out softly, ‘What is your name, little flower, for I never saw one like you before.’

The tiny plant answered at once in a tone as golden as itself, ‘Behold me! My name is Acceptance-with-Joy!’

Much-Afraid thought of the things which she had seen… Somehow the answer of the little golden flower which grew all alone in the waste of the desert stole into her heart and echoed there faintly and sweetly, filling her with comfort. She said to herself, ‘He [the Shepherd] has brought me here when I did not want to come, for His own purpose. I, too, will look up into His face and say, “Behold me! I am your little handmaiden, Acceptance-with-Joy.”‘”

-Hinds Feet on High Places, by Hannah Hurnard

A reminder to my readers: grow where you are planted. (: