I keep thinking of all the things I’ll do when I have my own home, when I’m a mom and have babies running around and when I’ve set solid roots in a real community. But when I write off all the things I can do when I have those things, like hosting people in my home and having an idea of what my days would look like and longing for them, I miss what I can be doing today. I miss the fact that even though hospitality in my dorm room may not look like inviting everyone over, that I can still be real and authentic and love other people where they are. As I wish for the days of being back in Seattle, of attending and investing all of myself in a community at Bethany, I miss the ways that I can be investing in the people in front of me right now. The reason I don’t do it all now is because it’s hard, and even though I may realize this, a lot of the people around me don’t see it. They don’t see the fierce way we can love each other if we use our words positively to speak life into each other instead of talking about other people, putting them down and complaining like it’s a part of our job description as a college student. When I say this, I’m talking to myself because I use it as my excuse. That I can’t live hospitality because I don’t have the physical space. Not true. I have a whole college campus to explore and to make my own. I don’t need the perfect room or tons of time to invest in people and know how to love them well. I need to work on and learn how to love people and meet them right where they are. How can I show those around me love when we’re all so busy? How can I stop and make people feel like they are enough, that they are wonderfully made, and still be genuine and honest and real with them? How can I invest and tend to roots at a new church in Santa Clara when I can’t get there or don’t even have a church that feels like home? None of this is easy, but coming home reminds me that it’s possible and that it’s about the little things. To meet people right where they are, whether that be in life or in their faith walk, I have to meet myself where I am and simply walk with them. Most of the time this doesn’t look like anything grand, but other times it looks like prioritizing my time to make sure I have the margin to invest in people. I think those around me deserve it, I think that I can do a better job and I don’t think it’s too late to start now. (Inspiration: here and here)
This quarter has been up and down, all around, over the place. The first week was a rough week. It was hard being back, I didn’t want to be back and my schedule was a fight to get it the way I wanted (but I did! Hooray!). Then last week was the first normal week, I watched for rhythms and saw where I’m going to need to be mighty fierce in making time for quiet time but also open to how the Lord wills my day in the afternoon. Week three is the beginning of this quarter truly having a life and story of its own. I know my classes, I’m starting to know the people in these classes and I’m making things happen. The work has started, the drafts of essays were due today and today’s reading quiz was now my third. This isn’t all so new anymore and it’s starting to feel intimately mine.
From this space I’m still learning what works and what doesn’t. It took me until the end of week three for winter quarter to feel good and I have to make sure I’m not jumping the gun. I have to keep holding myself to a standard of grace instead of perfection, but the perfection is easier. The perfection is what everyone else is doing, it’s what looks right in the black and white world when I’m surrounded by gray. The grace? That requires time in Scripture, that requires wholeheartedness, that requires not being perfect, that requires compassion for myself and it is gray as gray as gray.
I started reading The Language of Flowers at the end of last week and I’m loving it. I love having a book that makes me want to stay up until 11:30pm reading instead of getting an extra half hour of sleep. I love that I am giving myself the grace to take the extra half hour and love it. To use that time to remember I need to have a bit more fun, which seminar reminded me was okay to last weekend. I don’t have to be “on” all the time, I just need to be authentic. And that’s hard because it’s always changing. I may say that today authentic looks like x, and then tomorrow it will be flipped on it’s head and spun around 180 degrees.
I’m beginning to realize that nothing is as constant or controllable as I wish it would be. I can’t control my schedule, my days or all the little things. I can influence them with self-discipline and a plan, but most of it is out of my hands. This is ringing so many bells as one of my goals was the year to live prayerfully so that I would know that I was walking where the Lord wanted me to be. But the thing is, prayer isn’t an ask-and-answer situation. Prayer nourishes the intimate relationship that I want to have with Jesus. And putting that all together means that I have to walk by faith a lot more than I’ll walk in certainty, but it’s okay. It’s okay because the goal is still to know Jesus, to anchor myself to God and build an intimate relationship with the Holy Spirit that is alive within me.
And here we are at Holy Week leading up to Easter, my favorite day of the year. This is my holiday; I love it more than Christmas and my birthday. Sunday changes everything for me; it’s life to the full, it’s purpose, it’s hope, it’s patience, it’s everything I’ll ever need. Usually the anticipation to this incredible day has me bursting with joy, but this week I’ve felt half-here due to the 6 hours of sleep I got on Sunday night due to bad planning. But how I’m feeling goes beyond how much sleep I got this weekend, it tracks back to Lent for me. I knew that I didn’t have a clear piece of my life that I needed to change in preparation for Easter, I just simply wanted to prepare my heart. At the beginning of Lent, that looked like giving up Facebook again for good (it worked so well for me last year, I’m not sure why I let it back in), taking two weeks off Instagram and spending time in Scripture daily. That’s exactly what I needed to do to tend to my heart. But over spring break and the new quarter, what my heart needs has changed. My heart is a huge gray area that is always changing and never constant. I have to adjust my expectations to match what I’m dealing with, so I’m not concerned at how those things might have changed over 40 days. God moved in me over Lent and my heart has swayed away and has anchored itself back.
I didn’t have 40 days of consistency. I had review week, then finals week, then spring break in two states, then I started a new quarter. A lot happened between Ash Wednesday and today and I’m giving myself the necessary grace that I deserve throughout all of this. It’s not easy and I’m thankful for my journal, for my rhythms of sleep, for fighting for quiet time on a daily basis, for fighting for intimacy even when I’d lost the point. It’s hard and these 40 days haven’t been easy; they have been up and down and all around. But I keep coming back to the One that knows my heart, who goes before me and prepares for me. I want to be a girl with a plan, ready and willing to move when He says so. I’m not there yet and the best is yet to come and that is so much hope. Hope that anchors, hope that is stronger than anything, hope that never loses faith. Hope is all I really needed.
Today was good. I finally am realizing that I’m back at school, that it is spring quarter not winter and that my weekdays are going to look like the same thing. I’m realizing the repetition because I can’t tell my MWFs from my TRs which is the strangest thing after last quarter. I’m so happy with my schedule and I can’t wait until the end of week three when it feels like mine. Today I went to class, read a loooooong CNI reading really critically, went to CNI, met with the professor afterwards, came back to have some quiet time, read for CTW outside and I painted my nails while watching Grey’s. I had dinner with some friends and then was off to WM. What I’m realizing is that these days feel really, really long. They’re not easy days to get through and there are no “off days” where the work stops. That’s Saturday… And so I’m learning how to make myself productive on the afternoons and what that looks like for me with a whole lot of grace. This quarter isn’t easy, but I finally feel grateful to be back in the swing of things a bit and I wouldn’t want it any other way.
Getting off campus is my saving grace, it makes me come alive. I need to remember that doing what makes me come alive makes me feel like me. I need to start listing and storing up the memories of what makes me me so that I know to do them when I don’t feel like me. Over the weekend, and honestly since being back this quarter, I haven’t felt like myself. Only having a week between winter quarter and spring quarter was not enough. I feel like I’m still trying to cling to the good rhythms and control I finally had over winter quarter when what I really need to do is let it all go. I need to pray and have faith that God will provide me with every opportunity I need to do what makes me come alive.
Having that faith and that hope has been incredibly challenging the past week. Everything isn’t in my control and I can’t figure it all out and that’s terrifying. I have to be still, I have to know, I have to FAIL to know that He is God. I just wish it didn’t take me getting bored in quiet time with Him to make me come alive to His word again. I know there’s a way for it not to sputter out, but I left my bulletin from Bethany’s sermon on this at home, but I think revisiting it this week wouldn’t be a bad idea. I need to be writing more because without writing this, I never would have thought to re-watch the sermon, I only would have thought about how the bulletin is in the state of Washington and I’m in the state of California.
This morning I woke up, got dressed in lululemon (my new favorite everything) and went to PB with Becky. It wasn’t with Emily so I was worried, I didn’t want to waste a PB class with a bad teacher. But with low expectations they are easy to exceed so I went and loved it. I walked around Los Gatos afterwards because I had half an hour until J Crew opened and I just soaked it all up. I need to get off campus to feel like myself, to realize that there is so much more than my bubble on campus and that I am made for much more. When I step out of my room and especially off campus, I’m filled with encouragement that I can do this. Whether that encouragement is really positive feedback on my first Christian Tradition writing, a “great job, Mackenzie” during PB or writing a long overdue list of Evidences of God’s Grace, I need it. My soul depends on words that tell me I can do this, and I keep forgetting that Scripture is full of that. Not Grey’s Anatomy, not The Amazing Race, not Instagram and not blogs; Scripture. God’s Word.
But what happens when that’s honestly not enough? I put God in a box when I think He can only move in my life and heart through quiet time. He isn’t limited to a pen, journal, Bible and devotional prompt—I am. He is encouragement and life which is why it’s important for me to anchor myself to Him through everything. But sometimes that’s hard and I feel like He’s far away or that there is a tension deep in my heart. I’ve been sad, tired and frustrated all week and I forget that I can lament to Him about everything. It’s not complaining, He already knows.
I need more wild & free faith and less rules and boundaries. I need a faith that knows that grace never fails and that I can feel everything I’m feeling. I start failing when I don’t take it to Him; when I just think in my head instead of saying it out loud or writing it out. I need to write it out. I need to break the box that I’ve put myself in because He’s waiting for me on the other side asking me, “why did you do that to yourself? I’m here. I am always here for you.” And so I walk in faith, knowing that if I keep putting one foot in front of the other, He goes before me and is with me. He’s got everything under control so I need to let go and just keep moving. Because I know my heart may be slow to move or understand, but I’m in the thick of spring quarter right now and that’s okay. You have to learn to name it, whatever “it” may be, to move through it.
I’m in the thick of adjusting to spring quarter and it’s hard. I’m in the thick of letting go of working so hard to build strong habits winter quarter and learning how to reapply them to spring quarter in their own way. I’m in the thick of figuring out new classes, new classmates and a new schedule. I am in the thick of it and He is holding me in His hand, reminding me that all I need is faith as small as a mustard seed. That’s enough.
I’M IN. After the most defeating Tuesday of sitting in on the same Omis class three times and not getting into any of the afternoon ones, I’m finally in. I can’t believe it but this is faith as small as a mustard seed. This is believing with the smallest sliver that this could happen because I was convinced it was over. I get to keep going to PB on TRs like I did last quarter and I’m so excited. I’m taking what I learned from last quarter from my class-free TRs and putting it into practice this quarter. I can go to PB, have quiet time, go to class and then make some serious work happen. I’m in shock and could have skipped back to my dorm from class when the professor said yes. But now it’s work time, it’s time to make it happen and I think I can do it. This week has been HARD and I’m giving myself grace. No standards of perfection, none. Done is better than perfect. Live into those rhythms of grace, girl. You got this.
I did it! I made it through day one of spring quarter and as I type it’s raining. Right now I feel like this rain is the biggest blessing. I woke up on Saturday at home in my own bed in Seattle and didn’t want to get out of bed. Instead I just lied in the most comfortable bed I’d been in in months and watched the rain pour down. I’ve found rain to be the biggest sign of a blessing and ever since reading The God of Small Things senior year of high school. Rain is baptismal for me; it’s a fresh start, it’s a blessing and it’s a reason to give thanks. It produces life, it nourishes, it refreshes and I feel it in my bones. Maybe it’s the part of me that was born and raised in Seattle where the rain drizzles daily and the blessings keep coming through it, but I love it. Rain, especially the heavier rain that isn’t quite pouring, makes me come alive. It makes me deep to the bone grateful and sincerely myself.
Spring break was wonderful and with every break I’m learning more about myself. I realize that I need four days for me to transition from finals week to break. For those four days, anything goes and there is zero guilt. Stayed up all night watching Grey’s and didn’t go to sleep until past 1am? Not a problem. Those four days were the ones that I needed, that I didn’t need to write down what I did but just was. After those days I felt so much better and much more like myself. Looking back at the two photos in the last post make me come alive, I miss that and crave more of it to feel like me.
Palm Springs was wonderful, but surprising my mom on Friday was incredible. I’d traveled to Palm Springs over the quarter so frequently that I needed the refreshing newness of Seattle. I needed to come home, I needed my own bed, I needed my dogs, and I needed my mom. I went home and I got everything I needed and more. I got PB at Capitol Hill, I got Eltana bagels, I got to drop my brother off at the float plane back to Victoria, I got to shop, shop, shop with my mom at Lululemon, I got to eat a home cooked meal of salmon, brocollini and roasted red potatoes, I got to play Monopoly with my mom, brother and grandma, and that’s just Saturday. On Sunday I got to go to church at Bethany, I got to grab Teavana teas from U Village with my dad, I got to go to brunch with my mom at Macrina, I got to walk the dogs to the circle and back, I got to meet Bob Goff at the airport in Seattle and I got to come back to Santa Clara and be asleep before 11pm. God is so good and after the week I’ve had, I don’t necessarily feel ready, but I feel good enough. I’m thankful for what I’ve had, for the fresh start and for my ability to really let go of winter quarter to fully free myself up for spring quarter. It’s my last quarter of freshman year and I want to finish it strong. I’m so excited to put together what I’ve learned and I’m so grateful for how far I’ve come. God is good.
I miss doing the things that make me come alive and inspire me. I’m quick to forget that I love beautiful days with a light breeze, sitting on a lawn chair with a terry cloth towel outside reading. That I love watching The Pioneer Woman and Ina Garten on the Food Network. I forget that I love spending simple, quality time with my family. The thing is, I never forget that I love these things, but I forget how this love makes me come alive.
For Lent I’ve been fasting my time and that looked like saying goodbye to Facebook for the rest of the year (I really don’t need it) and turning off Instagram. Neither of these things were the point/focus of my fast, daily time with the Lord was what I was going to make happen to prepare my heart for Easter. Instagram wasn’t the problem, my heart was. But with Instagram I’m taking photos, thinking of other photos I could be taking, editing them and reminding myself how much I love photography. And when I leave my phone in my room and don’t have it with me, I can’t take a photo. I miss photography and I miss my big camera too.
Today was the best day, I love Thursdays. It was the best day because of its simplicity. It wasn’t anything filled to the brim, it was just what I needed after the past few days. I slept in a bit, went to CBTL with my dad (no caffeine though!), had a bowl of honey nut cheerios and was off to a Pilates one-on-one. I like Pilates because it reminds me how Pure Barre makes me come alive and makes me miss it. The time I’ve had apart from all these things I love has made me wake up to them in new ways. So I savor my afternoon spent reading outside, then chatting with my dad and brother and then ordering dinner from the club. I’m thankful for the simple time we just got to spend together and realize that the depth of my joy is related to my gratitude. Today I was grateful for the smallest things, for the simple things, and it turns out that today they were the big things. There is no other way I’d rather have spent my last full day in Palm Springs.
My tea is a trigger. It triggers my heart to move and to respond. It calls me to not just sit there but to do and think mindfully. I start thinking about my heart, about what I’m doing well and poorly and I realize a cup of tea is what makes me be still. It forces me to know that He is God and open my hands to all the rest; to really let go.
Spring break hasn’t sunk in yet. It doesn’t feel real and I think it’s because I’ve done Palm Springs weekends before and this also doesn’t feel normal. I’ve done hard, whole-self-consuming work for the past eleven weeks and was only able to “turn it off” for a long weekend. I think I’m going to need the day after the long weekend for this to sink in.
But my tea allows me to sink. It allows me to sink into knowing who He is and what this whole life is made of. It allows me to think mindfully in a world that is always rushing, moving and checking another thing off the to-do list mindlessly because I do it every day. I write the lists. I fill the planner. I write the top three. But I make time and prepare my heart for quiet time with tea. I’ve built a habit that isn’t just a vanilla ceylon tea latte, the tastebuds aren’t the trigger, the habit of doing preparatory work is.
This work changes my heart and changes my days, that is why it is so important. That’s why it’s hard for me to just sit down and have quiet time, I’ve built a habit that makes it feel natural. It is similar to me having an appointment every day with the Lord, except it’s not in my planner or on my to-do list (well, quiet time is sometimes on the to-do list). But I can’t force this feeling, I can’t make this feeling of a prepared and still heart out of thin air. I need to keep doing the hard work, I need to keep preparing my heart and I think this Lenten sacrifice of my time is doing just what I intended it to. I wanted to prepare my heart for His resurrection and I’m living the life-altering and peace given by preparation. It’s so much more than a cup of tea, but that’s where it starts.
I’ve started reading Seth Godin’s daily blog posts and I love the way they make me think. Even post math final where I cannot stop thinking about the silly mistakes and the should haves/could haves, I find an opportunity to wring myself out with his post. Today, his post is about “The rotten fish problem" and I love it. What am I clinging to on day two that I know isn’t working, but keep holding on to until day three, or even week two? This is so clearly applicable to me in so many forms throughout the quarter system.
When I started this quarter, after math at 8am I wanted to go to the library and power out my math homework. Not once this quarter did I do this. Why? It was too early, there was no way I was going to go from an hour and five minutes of class to another forty-five minutes to an hour of homework. That’s just too much before 11am! Instead, I built new habits and either got a bagel with girls after class or went straight back to my room for quiet time. Those decisions are some of my favorite ones to look back on. I love quiet time and this has become a daily habit thanks to my tea lattes and milk frother. I didn’t try to force the homework post-math and I’m glad I didn’t.
But where is the line between trying something once, like keeping the fish day two, and starting fresh, which means ditching the fish day two? I think for me, this comes from two things: a) try it once and b) go with your gut. If I don’t give something a try with my whole heart invested into it, I never know what could happen and how much good it would have produced. Did I try to do my math homework after class? No. Do I wish I had? Not really, since it has turned into the perfect time for quiet time, but what if I had? Trying it once would have erased that hypothetical completely and maybe I would have been able to feel incredibly accomplished before 11am MWFs. But something inside of me knew that doing my math homework right after class wouldn’t work, and it was right. It allowed me space to really wake up and start my day fully aware of how many choices were ahead of me. At 8am I don’t have a choice whether to go to class; I’m going. But after class, that time is all mine until my next class in the afternoon. Having quiet time, eating lunch and getting some work done worked so well and it gave me something to look forward to so that I could power through math class at 8am.
Hopefully, next quarter, I’ll still have quiet time post-class or maybe I’ll be off to PB depending on how my schedule works out. Either way I realize that some things may need to go day two, regardless of what I had planned or if there’s even a slimmer of hope for day three. But for most things, my gut knows whether to stick with it or ditch it. Taking the time to invest in myself is so worth it because it makes these decisions easier, which then turns them into default habits that require one less bit of energy. I’m ready to take every step I can to optimize the energy I have. At the end of the day, I’m grateful for the grace that I have in learning what the right choice for me is and the fresh start to try all over again the next day if I fall. All is grace.
I took my Spanish final today and I don’t think it has sunk in that I’m done with Spanish. I feel like a sponge that has absorbed all this information from the past ten weeks of what I’ve learned and now I’m tapped out. But the thing is, I can’t be tapped out. I have a lot of work left to do and a lot of work in front of me with Math 31 and Econ 1 finals on Wednesday and my CNI final on Friday. There’s a lot to do so this sponge needs to be wrung out, but how?
Over the past few days I’ve realized how important it has been to come back to what makes me feel alive. To go back to reading every day and reading good books. To having quiet time every single day and how easy it is when it turns into a habit because the reward? Peace. Peace that this world can’t give me and that I crave so desperately to make meaning out of all of this. Listening to Shania Twain or singing along to worship music has just made me come alive the past few days. I’ve rediscovered things that I’ve loved and I’m so thankful for it.
I still can’t believe it’s the end of the quarter. On Friday I will be done with my second quarter of college, will be 2/3 of the way done with my first year and will start my final round of new classes for the year. Holy cow! The incredible and absolutely amazing thing about quarters is how much growth that can happen between week one and week ten. It amazes me. It’s a gift. We can do much more in ten weeks than we think we can. I can do much more and grow in ten weeks in ways I never would have thought possible. Every quarter I get stronger, I learn more about myself and I learn more about what works for me and what doesn’t. I can’t believe the things that I wasn’t doing ten weeks ago that now seem like they’ve been a part of my life forever, an essential piece I couldn’t do without. God is so good.
But I’m running on empty. I’m looking for motivation on how people get through finals week when they feel like they have nothing left to give. I read the final prep posts that I’ve pinned and the lessons I learned from last quarter but it’s really, really hard. I’m ready to be done but at the same time, I don’t want to look back at this week and not have the peace that I did my best. But it’s hard. I’m done, I’m tired and since these ten weeks have flown by I don’t feel like I know enough to be tested. I don’t know the material well enough, I don’t know how to keep myself interested in studying, and I’m weary. This happens, I know, but I want the Mackenzie back that knew how to prepare for finals, that was willing to put in the time and effort and didn’t feel so absolutely drained. It’s hard. College is really, really hard, but at the end of the day they’re just finals. And as un-motivating as that is, my whole body needs Palm Springs next week as a break and a deep breath. I need refreshment and I need time away from classes and to-do lists and the work.
I want to come back spring quarter realizing that this is it, this is how I will finish my first year of college. I love that I get three fresh starts every year and what I really need to live into is that I have a fresh start daily and even in this moment. I can write this post, change the tone and realize that at 8:27pm on a Monday night I get Monday part 2. It may not mean heading to the packed library, and at this point I don’t know what it should look like. I could study econ, but should I study math? Or CNI because that’s due tomorrow? I don’t even know how to study anymore. But I want to try, I want to say something is better than nothing and it’s all about progress, not perfection. Sometimes there’s no right or wrong, well most of the time, actually, it’s all just grace. All is sacred; may my worship be my work to prepare myself for finals this week. But no matter what, this college and this time is a gift and I’m thankful for it. I’m just really, really thankful that it will be over on Friday too.