The Marrow of Life (Writing 101, Day 4)

Henry David Thoreau once wrote:

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms.

I haven’t read beyond the first chapter of Walden, but I’ve been to Walden Pond.  I saw the place Thoreau built his little cabin.  I walked the same paths, put my feet in the same water.  The funny thing about Thoreau’s escape into nature is that he really didn’t go that far.  The pond by which he spent two years is only a couple of miles from Concord.  My friend and I walked there from town.  So, although it made for some beautiful self-reflection, Thoreau wasn’t in any serious danger.  But I digress.

I’m no scholar of Transcendentalism (my focus is actually British literature), but I love what Thoreau gets at here.  He goes to the woods to find what it is to live.  He strips life down to its barest essentials.  He digs deep, gets his hands dirty, and finds what it is to be truly alive.

Have you ever gone to the woods?

When I pose this question, I’m not talking about a stroll through the forest.  Nor am I wondering if you’ve spent two years living as a hermit in the wilderness.

Have you ever, to use Thoreau’s words, sucked the marrow of life?  Have you ever started a journey, forged a relationship, created something with your hands, that made you understand what it feels to be truly alive?

I know that I have tasted the marrow of life.  I have glimpsed life’s bright light.  I have experienced moments of complete wholeness and peace.  But it has always been fleeting.  It is always a taste, always a glimpse, always a moment.

I want to live like Thoreau.  His words aren’t those of someone who is timid.  His words are bold.  He doesn’t want to exist; he wants to thrive.  He wants to cut broadly, shave closely, to drive, to be sturdy, to be strong.

I don’t want to live what is not life.  I want to bask in the simple pleasures of every day.  I want to find work that brings meaning not only to myself, but to others.  Although I wish it to be, I’m starting to realize that life doesn’t have to be large.  It doesn’t have to be filled with excitement and movement to be meaningful.  Thoreau certainly wasn’t having epic adventures as he tended to his garden and walked through the woods.  Richness can be found through simplicity, through solitude, through taking time to be still.

So, dear readers, let’s be like Thoreau.  Let us go to the woods.  Let us suck the marrow of life.  Because what an awful thing it would be to reach the end of our days and discover that we hadn’t lived at all.

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This post is inspired by an assignment for the Blogging University class Writing 101: Finding Everyday Inspiration.

Tis the Season Day 7: JOY to the World

We’ve come to the final day of Tis the Season.  It’s Christmas Eve, my favorite day of the year.  But instead of decorating cookies with my younger brother, I’m sitting here pondering the meaning of Christmas.

(As I wrote that last sentence, I could hear Sam from the next room go, “How ‘come Amelia’s not helping?”  I really should be helping.  Sam’s decorating takes a violent turn if left alone for too long.  We’ve had a number of bloody snowmen cookies over the years.)

Christmas is many things.  It’s a time for family and friends.  It’s a time for giving.  It’s a time for laughter, for memories, for nostalgia.  More than any of those things, though, it’s a time for JOY.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been thinking about happiness and joy.  At first, the two words appear synonymous.  Dictionaries will tell you that they’re the same.  But I disagree.  Happiness great, but it is fleeting.  It’s a state of mind, something that you feel for one moment and then is gone the next.  I can chase happiness and something still falls short.  The thing about joy, though, is that it runs deep.  It sinks into the soul.  Down in the core of who I am is a small, indistinguishable flame.  When the metaphorical storms of life hit and everything seems to fall apart, joy remains.  It is steadfast, unshakable.

Where does this joy come from?  Easy.  It comes from knowing and being known by God.  When it comes down to it, that’s what this holiday is all about.

The creator of the universe, the almighty God entered into His creation as one of His created.  He was born not to the wealth, glory, and splendor He deserves, but is born of a peasant in a barn.  He grew up poor and even during the three years He spent teaching, healing, and performing miracles, He was hated and despised by the very people He created.  By the very nature of who Jesus is, He deserves honor and praise.  But by the people He created, the ones He came to redeem, He received slander, torture, and death.

Despite everything, He still loves us.  He still wants us.  It doesn’t matter how broken we are, He is right there with open arms.  He not only provided salvation from our sins, but adopted us as His children.  He wants to know us and be known by Him.  He doesn’t just want us to know things about Him, to live a life of empty religion, but wants us to know who He is, His character, and His love.  It’s intimate, it’s deep, it’s rich… and there for free even though we deserve none of it.  Woah.

This beautiful intimacy of what we celebrate on Christmas is the essence of JOY.

Peter sums it up perfectly: “Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy…” (1 Peter 1:8-9)

One of the most popular Christmas songs out there is “Joy to the World”.  Growing up, I never thought much about the words.  This year, though, they resonated in my heart.  Although they’re associated with the first coming of Jesus, they’re actually about the second.  The words speak of the immense joy that we will have when all is finished and we can physically be with Him once more.  The joy is so great that Heaven and Nature sings–even the rocks cannot help but cry out in adoration.

What better way to end Tis the Season than with inexpressible, glorious, inexhaustible, steadfast JOY?

Merry Christmas, everyone!

DONE!

IT IS FINISHED.  I AM DONE.  THE SEMESTER IS OVER.

It’s been a fantastic day.  This morning, I spent some time with my friend, Neala, who is going on the Amazing Race (a missions trip where they visit eleven countries in eleven months) in January.  I also got $32 from returning textbooks, which is the most money my school has ever given back to me.  During my library shift, I got chewed out by the new librarian for not watching the color printer closely (which was stupid), but on the plus side one of my classmates brought me a mocha from the campus coffee shop!  (I never buy coffee there ’cause it’s expensive, so it was a real treat.)  I also packed up my bags, which was exciting, and took my last final.

I feel like I should be more sentimental about being halfway through my final year of college… but really, all I want to do is read books for fun, play video games, hang out with my cat, and sleep forever.

Excuse me while I celebrate by packing my car and leaving this tiny town.  Maybe I’ll get Chipotle on the way home.  Life is suddenly full of beautiful possibilities.

I feel like this photo encapsulates all the joy in my heart right now.

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Photo from my friends’ holiday party this past weekend. We did Secret Santa and my friend Kassandra gave me the most beautiful socks in the world.

For those of you still pushing through finals, best of luck!  You can do it!  The end is in sight!

 

Letting go of Me

When I was younger, I was incredibly ambitious.

It drove me insane when girls I knew got married straight out of college, had babies, and settled down to be stay-at-home moms who homeschooled their kids.  I vowed never to become that woman.

I was determined to go to a academically prominant college, earn a degree, and begin an illustrious career.  I wanted to do things with my life–I wanted to go places, to meet people, to gain prestige and success.

Although I’ve always maintained high academic standards, my freshman year of college is when everything began to change.  That year, I found myself pursuing my Christian faith more than anything else in my life.  As the years have gone by, my eyes have gradually shifted from my ambitions to the sheer joy of knowing Christ.

My relationship with Jesus Christ has taken over my life.  Every part of who I am has been affected.  My friendships, relationships, on-campus involvement, grades, and even what i want to do with my life has changed dramatically from freshman to senior year.  Everything else in life is meaningless compared to knowing and being known by Him.  His love is incredible.

When I came into this school year, I dreaded everything.  I wrote several posts (Looking ahead and Return to School) expressing my dissatisfaction.  I think the reason I was so apprehensive was because last year was incredibly challenging.  I spent half the year across the world from everyone I loved and the other half learning that, because of my time abroad, I no longer fit with the people I loved in the same way.  It was a year of learning, a year of lonliness, a year of great frustration.  Part of me was scared that this year would be the same.

But the thing is, God is good.  He sees me and knows me.  He understands where I was at and knew exactly how to provide for me.  No, He didn’t bring me close friends to replace the ones I have lost.  But He gave me more of Himself.  People cannot fill the needs of my soul, but He can.  Not only does He fill me, love me, and provide for me, but He wants to be known by me.  He desires intimacy with me, deep closeness.  And, as I’ve responded to that over the past few months, I find myself falling more and more in love with Him.  There’s a line in a Christmas song that goes, “Hearts unfurl like flowers before Thee / opening to the sun above”.  That’s me.  And oh, it’s so beautiful.

Not only has God been providing for me personally, He brought me to an incredible Bible study where I am challenged like I haven’t been in years.  There are times when I feel like I know everything there is to know about God, faith, and the Bible.  But through this Bible study, God has been teaching me to let go of everything I think I know and know Him.  Every week, I walk away with a new insight on His goodness and am left breathless.  It’s been so, so wonderful and my entire faith mindset has shifted dramatically.

It’s scary, letting go of yourself and trusting something you do not see.  But, oh my goodness, it’s beautiful.  There’s nothing like it in the world.  The greatest pleasures in life pale in comparison to the goodness of knowing God.

In the book of Philippians, Paul has similar words:

“But whatever gain I had, I counted it as loss for the sake of Christ.  Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.  For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that comes by faith.” Philippians 3:7-9

I’m not quite to the level of Paul yet.  I haven’t dropped every material thing, nor have I experienced any great suffering.  But the spirit behind the verses, the same deep longing and affection for Christ resonates in my heart.

I realize this is a bit different from my usual posts, but the need to express these things in words have been bubbling up in my heart for quite a while.  Here they finally are.